KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president issued a fiery call at the United Nations on Tuesday for world leaders to punish Russia amid a surge in attacks on civilian targets in recent days.
“The person who carried out this strike knew for sure that he was aiming a missile at an ordinary shopping center,” Zelensky said, denying Russia’s claim that the mall, in the city of Kremenchuk, was not in use.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Tuesday said that the missiles hit hangars storing Western-donated weapons and ammunition, causing a fire at the shopping center. According to Ukrainian authorities, Russian forces launched at least one Kh-22 missile that hit the Amstor mall, engulfing it in flames.
“More than 50 people were wounded, dozens more are missing ... fragments of bodies were found,” Zelensky said. “We need to act urgently to do everything to make Russia stop the killing spree.”
He urged the Security Council to strip Russia of its permanent seat, label Moscow a state sponsor of terror and establish a tribunal to investigate its forces for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron called the mall strike a “war crime” and said Russia “cannot and should not win” the war in Ukraine.
Witnesses in Kremenchuk described scenes of “horror” and “hell” after the explosion from the missile ripped through the building.
Tanya, 50, a salesperson at the Amstor mall — who spoke on the condition that her last name and the name of her business not be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation in Ukraine — said that people in the shopping center had only a few minutes to react to air raid sirens warning that a Russian attack could be imminent.
Tanya said she received an alert on her telephone and was gathering up merchandise to close the store when the blast wave threw her from her chair.
“A couple of seconds later and everything went dark — there was only the light of my computer,” she said. “I felt around me, and there was glass everywhere.”
“People were shouting, ‘the roof, the roof!’ because I think in some part it had already fallen, and there were pools of water on the ground,” she said. “We had to get out before the supports collapsed.”
Tanya said she didn’t know how many people were in the building. But she said the strike came at a time when people often stopped off at the grocery store in the mall on their way home from work.
Shortly after she got out, fire engulfed the area where she had been, she said.
A two-minute clip of closed-circuit TV footage from a park near the mall in Kremenchuk, released Tuesday, shows a view of the strike — with debris flying into a pond, and terrified adults and children running for shelter or throwing themselves into the water. The blast can be clearly seen.
Anna Vasenko, press officer for the Kremenchuk police, was among the first people to arrive at the mall after the explosion, which was about a mile from her office. The scene, she said, was “beyond words.”
“There was black smoke that made us choke — everything was black smoke, everything was on fire,” she said. “It was a horror — blood, tears — it was just hell.”
“Here was a hell that just 15 minutes before was full of life.”
Thebault reported from Washington. Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia, and Karina Tsui in Washington also contributed to this report.
An earlier version of this article said that at least one Russian missile had been fired from Russia’s Caspian region, according to Ukrainian officials. They said at least one missile had been fired from Russia’s Kursk region. The story has been corrected.