A Russian missile strike has hit a crowded shopping centre in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing at least two people and wounding 20, senior Ukrainian officials have said.
Footage circulating on social media showed fire raging and smoke billowing from the entirety of the shopping centre, with fire trucks parked nearby.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, wrote on Telegram that more than 1,000 civilians were inside the shopping centre in Kremenchuk and that the number of victims was “unimaginable”.
He said: “The occupiers fired missiles at the shopping centre, where there were more than a thousand civilians. The mall is on fire, rescuers are extinguishing the fire, the number of victims is unimaginable.
“Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary citizens. It is useless to hope for decency and humanity from Russia.”
A rescue operation was under way and nine of the wounded were in a serious condition, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the presidential office.
Dmitry Lunin, the governor of the Poltava region, gave no details of the attack or the casualties. “Unfortunately, there are victims. More details later,” he said.
Kremenchuk is the site of Ukraine’s biggest oil refinery and stands on the banks of the Dnieper River. The city serves as the administrative centre of the Kremenchuk district in Poltava oblast.
There was no immediate comment from Russia, which denies deliberately targeting civilians.
The latest Russian attack came on the day of a G7 meeting in Germany where leaders discussed ways to punish Moscow for its invasion and pledged to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”.
Russia stepped up its missile strikes on Ukraine as the summit came closer, hitting the capital, Kyiv, on Sunday as well as launching 20 rockets fired from Belarusian territory, raising worries in Ukraine that Moscow is aiming to drag its key ally Belarus into the conflict.
Forces fighting for Russia are also mounting an all-out assault on the last Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region where Russian troops hope to cut off the city of Lysychansk, after having reduced its twin city, Sievierodonetsk, to rubble.
If Lysychansk falls, the entire region of Luhansk, which along with Donetsk makes up the Donbas region, could fall into Russian hands, marking a strategic breakthrough for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, since the beginning of the invasion.
Russia’s Interfax news agency and pro-Russian separatist fighters said Russian troops had entered Lysychansk on Saturday after Ukrainian forces were ordered to withdraw from Sievierodonetsk.
The claim could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian side.
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, said on Facebook that Russian and separatist fighters were trying to blockade Lysychansk from the south and that due to heavy bombardments the city “is almost unrecognisable”.