Ukrainian rescuers sifted through the rubble of a shopping mall in Kremenchuk looking for survivors the day after it was struck by Russian missiles, killing at least 20, as Western leaders vowed fresh measures to increase economic pressure on Moscow to call off its forces.
“More than a thousand people worked all night on the ruins—rescuers, police, medics and volunteers,” said Dmytro Lunin, governor of the Poltava region, where the Amstor shopping mall was hit. “We’re continuing the search.”
A spokesman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced new casualty figures, including 59 injured, and said 40 were still missing.
The daylight attack on the crowded mall, hundreds of miles away from the front lines in eastern Ukraine, was the latest in an uptick in Russian strikes on civilian targets, including areas in the capital, Kyiv. Russia’s Defense Ministry Tuesday said the missile strike in Poltava hit an arms depot that caused a fire in the shopping center, which Moscow said was closed at the time.
Mr. Zelensky spoke with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg about Ukraine’s need to shore up its defenses against Russian missile strikes as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization prepared for its annual summit meeting in Madrid Tuesday. “Stressed the importance of a powerful missile defense system for Ukraine to prevent Russian terrorist attacks,” Mr. Zelensky wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Stoltenberg said NATO would step up its support for Ukraine now and in the long term. Hours after the attack on the mall in Kremenchuk, leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations issued a stark condemnation, describing it as a war crime.
“We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack,” the leaders of the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan said in a statement.
“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime. Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account.”
The G-7 pledged to provide financial, humanitarian as well as military support for Ukraine until “Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine.”
The group also agreed to work on further sanctions against the Kremlin, including a ban of Russian gold exports and a cap on the price of Russian oil and gas to limit its revenue from natural resources.
The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said the growing number of missile strikes had been launched from both Russia and Belarus, but had failed to hit any strategically important targets. Over the weekend, a residential building was hit when Russian forces unleashed a volley of missiles at the Ukrainian capital. Russia said it had targeted an arms-manufacturing plant and that the civilian damage had been due to Ukrainian air-defense systems.
On the eastern front, Ukraine has worked to consolidate its position in Lysychansk, which overlooks current Russian positions in the city of Severodonetsk which fell to Russian forces last week.
Russia’s capture of Lysychansk would effectively bring all of Luhansk province, which makes up half the Donbas region, under Moscow’s control, bringing the Kremlin one step closer to its goal of fighting for the heavily Russian speaking eastern Ukraine region, which was once the economic engine of the country.
“Lysychansk is the last outpost of the Luhansk region,” said Ukrainian regional head of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai. “Our main task is to hold out as long as possible.”
Mr. Haidai said the city hasn’t had deliveries of necessary supplies and medicine for weeks and Russians fired on the city with Hurricane cluster munitions, which are widely prohibited internationally, though neither Kyiv nor Moscow have signed the convention that outlaws them.
Vitaliy Kim, the governor of the country’s southern Mykolaiv province, said Tuesday that cities across the region had come under intense Russian rocket fire and that authorities were clarifying casualties. He said at least three people had been killed in the strikes overnight.