Numerous civilians may have been killed or injured by a Russian missile assault on a crowded retail mall in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on Monday, according to Ukrainian officials.
In a Telegram message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the number of casualties as "unimaginable," noting rumors that more than 1,000 citizens were inside the building at the time of the incident. Images from the site depicted enormous black plumes of smoke rising from a retail complex engulfed in flames. Emergency personnel hurried to the scene as onlookers looked on in horror.
According to the Ukrainian regional governor, at least ten people were killed, and over 40 were injured.
The target, according to Zelenskyy, posed "no threat to the Russian army" and had "no strategic value." He accused Russia of obstructing "people's attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry."
The alleged Russian missile strike echoed attacks earlier in the conflict that resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties, such as one in March on a theater in Mariupol where many civilians had taken refuge, killing an estimated 600, and another in April on a train station in eastern Kramatorsk, killing at least 59.
"Russia continues to exact revenge on innocent civilians for its impotence. It is futile to expect decency and humanity from them "Zelenskyy stated.
Mayor Vitaliy Maletskiy posted on Facebook that the attack "hit a very crowded area, which is 100 percent certain not to have any links to the armed forces."
According to the local governor, the incident occurred as Russia launched a full-scale assault on the last Ukrainian stronghold in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk province, "pouring fire" on the city of Lysychansk.
After expelling Ukrainian troops from the nearby city of Sievierodonetsk in recent days, it appeared that Russian forces intensified their long-range attacks on the country.
Meanwhile, Western leaders pledged their unwavering support for Kyiv. Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, stated that the military alliance's leaders would agree to provide Ukraine with further military aid, including secure communication and anti-drone technology, when they meet in Spain for a summit.
The battles for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk are part of an intensified Russian push to gain control of the greater Donbas region from Ukraine.
In the meantime, in the west, the mayor of Sloviansk, which could be the next major battleground, reported that Russian soldiers fired cluster munitions on the city after dawn, including one that struck a residential sector.
Authorities have not yet confirmed the number of fatalities and injuries. The Associated Press witnessed one fatality: a man's body leaned over a car door frame, his chest and head wounds dripping blood onto the ground.
The explosion shattered most windows in the adjacent apartment buildings and parked cars, leaving the ground covered in shards of glass.
"Everything has been obliterated. We are the only residents left in this section of the building, and there is no strength, "resident Valentina Vitkovska cried as she described the explosion. I cannot even make a phone call to tell others what happened to us.
In the previous 24 hours, Zelenskyy's office said that at least six civilians were killed and 31 others were injured due to severe Russian bombardment on several Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv and key cities in the south and east of the country, but excluding the attack in Kremenchuk.
Two people were killed and five injured in and around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, as Russian soldiers continued to target the strategic southern port of Odesa. It was reported that a missile attack destroyed residential buildings and injured six persons, including a kid.
At least five high-rise buildings and the last road bridge in Lysychansk were damaged in the past day, according to the regional governor. A vital roadway connecting the city to the government-held territory to the south became impassable by shelling.
Approximately one-tenth of the city's prewar population of roughly one hundred thousand remains.
According to analysts, Lysychansk's elevated position on the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River gives the city's Ukrainian defenders a significant advantage.
"It is a difficult nut to crack. The Russians might devote many months and considerable effort to attacking Lysychansk "Oleh Zhdanov, a military specialist, stated.
In other news, in the Bavarian Alps of Germany, the Group of Seven leaders agreed to continue supporting Ukraine "for as long as it takes."
Monday, following a video conference session with Zelenskyy, the leaders issued a joint statement affirming their "unwavering commitment to support the government and people of Ukraine in their courageous defense of their country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The U.S. appeared prepared to agree to Zelenskyy's request for additional air defense systems after Russian troops fired long-range missiles at Kyiv on Sunday. Washington was expected to announce Ukraine's acquisition of a sophisticated surface-to-air missile system.
In the following weeks of the battle, Russia is likely to rely increasingly on reserve forces, according to the British Ministry of Defense.
According to analysts, a call-up of Russian reservists may drastically shift the war's balance but could also have political repercussions for the government of President Vladimir Putin.