A Russian missile strike on a shopping mall in central Ukraine killed at least 15 civilians and left scores injured, Ukrainian officials said Monday, adding urgency to the appeals from Kyiv for Western nations to send more advanced weapons.
G-7 leaders from the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan condemned the attack Monday, calling it “abominable” and vowing “unwavering support” for Ukraine. “Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” their statement said. “We will not rest until Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine.”
Ukrainian officials urged G-7 leaders and other Western nations to supply Ukraine with more sophisticated weapons, including antimissile systems they say would protect their cities against Russian attacks.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the attack showed Russia should be “designated a state sponsor of terrorism” and called for more weapons. “We need missile defenses,” he said.
Just hours before the strike Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to G-7 leaders through a video conference. He asked them for more heavy weapons, including antiaircraft weapons, to force a Russian retreat before winter, according to a person briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private discussions.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday that President Biden has told Zelensky the United States intends to provide Kyiv with advanced air defense capabilities, though he did not provide more details.
The Amstor mall was crowded with shoppers on Monday afternoon when at least one missile struck it, according to Ukrainian officials. Videos shared from the scene show buildings engulfed in smoke and civilians running for cover. Dmitry Lunin, the governor of the Poltava region, said 40 people were wounded, including two children, with 15 dead. With the rescue mission still ongoing, officials warned the number is likely to rise.
Zelensky said in a Telegram message Monday that there were more than 1,000 civilians at the mall when the missile hit, adding that the shoppers were “no danger to the Russian army.” The final number of victims, he said, was “impossible to imagine.”
Kremenchuk, a city of more than 200,000 before the invasion, is a large industrial center for the Poltava region. The Ukrainian Air Force Command said the mall had been hit by at least one Kh-22 missile fired by Tu-22 M3 bombers operating in the Kursk region of Russia, near the Ukrainian border. Russian officials and state-run media outlets have suggested, without evidence, that the attack on the shopping mall was a deliberately staged provocation by Ukrainian forces.
Kh-22 missiles are long-range weapons that were originally designed for use against ships. In a publicly issued note released earlier this month, the British Defense Ministry warned that these Soviet-era weapons were being used against land targets in Ukraine and that they were “highly inaccurate and therefore can cause severe collateral damage and casualties.”
A senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, said it is not clear why Russia has ramped up its attacks. One possibility is that Moscow is in protest of the United States delivering Ukraine advanced M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, the official said.