The Ukrainian Air Force command reported that the missiles were fired by long-range bombers that took off from a Russian airbase in northern Ukraine.
NBC News has not verified this claim or the death toll. The Russian Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At least one Russian official appeared to claim the missile strike was a false flag. Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, called it a Ukrainian “provocation” on Twitter and mentioned Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv where hundreds of people were found in mass graves after the Russian occupation.
The country has alleged in the past that the massacres of Ukrainians in Bucha and other places were manufactured by Ukraine. This claim was made despite evidence shared by residents, journalists and experts from organizations such as the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, as well as investigators from several countries, that the Russian armed forces had committed numerous crimes. of war since the start of the invasion.
Zelenskyy said the site posed no danger or strategic value to the Kremlin and alleged that it had contributed to a series of Russian horrific acts.
“Russia continues to assert its impotence on ordinary citizens. It is futile to expect adequacy and humanity from him,” he added.
Ukraine’s president addressed leaders at Monday’s Group of Seven summit, arguing for increased military support such as “additional air defense capabilities that could bring down missiles from the sky,” according to national security adviser Jake. Sullivan.
The United States is preparing to send a medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missile system, Sullivan said during a briefing with reporters.
Later that evening, Zelenskyy mentioned the attack, saying in a video statement that “the Russian state has become the largest terrorist organization in the world” and continued to advocate for countries around the world to abandon the use Russian oil and other financial ties. Several U.S. lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, have joined Zelenskyy in calling on President Joe Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
As details leaked out of Kremenchuk, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the world’s response should be “more heavy weapons for Ukrainemore sanctions against Russia and more companies leaving Russia.
The strike took place just before 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET), according to Ukraine’s state emergency service, which said recovery efforts were continuing with the help of 115 rescuers and 20 equipment. Efforts also continued to extinguish the flames, which covered more than 110,000 square feet and had filled the one-story building that houses the mall.
Mayor Vitalii Maletskyi said the city has turned a local hotel into a point of contact for those who haven’t heard from friends and relatives. A helpline number has also been created.
National Police Chief Igor Klimenko said he had deployed police forensic experts as well as war crimes investigators to start collecting evidence.
Although Monday’s toll remains uncertain, the incident echoed some of the alleged worst atrocities of the war.