The French president on Tuesday denounced the Russian airstrike on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine as a “new war crime” and promised Western support for Kyiv will not wane, saying Moscow “cannot and will not must not win” the war.
The strike, which killed at least 18 people in the central city of Kremenchuk, came as leaders of the Group of Seven nations met in Europe. It was part of an unusually heavy barrage of Russian fire across Ukraine, including in the capital, Kyiv, that has drawn renewed international attention as the war drags on.
Speaking at the end of the G-7 summit in Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to address this concern, promising that the seven major industrialized democracies would support Ukraine and maintain sanctions against Russia “as long as necessary. and with the necessary intensity”. ”
“Russia cannot and must not win,” he said. He called Monday’s attack on the mall a “new war crime”.
As they have done in other attacks, Russian officials claimed the mall was not the target.
In a virtual address to the UN Security Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being a “terrorist” and called for Russia’s expulsion from the United Nations. He also urged the UN to establish an international tribunal to investigate Russia’s action in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy ended his speech by asking everyone in the chamber to pay silent tribute to the “tens of thousands” of Ukrainian children and adults killed during the war. All council members stood, including Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky.
How to counter Russia and support Ukraine will also be the focus of a summit this week of the NATO alliance, whose support has been key to Kyiv’s ability to fend off larger and better-equipped forces from Moscow. . Ukrainian leaders, however, say they need more and better weapons if they are to resist and even repel Russia, which is launching an all-out assault in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.
As Macron spoke, rescuers searched the charred rubble of the mall, which officials say were hit as more than 1,000 shoppers and afternoon workers were inside.
Local resident Kateryna Romashyna told The Associated Press that she had just arrived at the mall when an explosion knocked her down. When another explosion occurred about 10 minutes later, she realized she had to get away.
“I fled from the epicenter with all my might,” she said. Fighting back tears, she added, “You have to be a real freak” to hit a mall.
Many inside quickly fled the building when an air raid siren sounded and took refuge across the street, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky said. Many of the bodies of those who didn’t get out in time are burned beyond recognition, he said.
In addition to the 18 killed, authorities said 59 were injured, while 21 people remain missing.
The attack was reminiscent of strikes earlier in the war that hit a theatre, a train station and a hospital. Zelenskyy called it “one of the most audacious terrorist attacks in European history”.
Rocket attacks continued elsewhere in Ukraine, with authorities in the city of Dnipro reporting that workers at a diesel car repair shop were trapped in rubble after a cruise missile strike fired from the Black Sea, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The Ukrainian military managed to intercept and destroy other missiles fired at the city, the agencies said.
As condemnation came in from many quarters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov issued a note of defiance, saying Russia would continue its offensive until it achieved its goals. He said hostilities could end “before the end of the day” if Ukraine were to surrender and meet Russia’s demands, including recognizing its control over territory it took by force.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov claimed that fighter jets fired precision-guided missiles at a depot containing Western weapons and ammunition, which exploded and set fire to the mall. Ukrainian authorities said that in addition to the direct hit on the mall, a factory was hit, but denied that it housed weapons.
Konashenkov also wrongly alleged that the mall was not in use.
One survivor, Oleksandr, a mall worker, told the AP from a hospital bed that the mall was full of shoppers. He remembers going out with a colleague for a cigarette when the air raid siren went off.
“There was a dark tunnel, smoke, fire,” he said. “I started crawling. I saw the sun up there and my brain was telling me I had to run away.”
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said the missile attack was one of Russia’s “crimes against humanity”. She stressed the need for all Ukrainians to remain vigilant and expect a similar strike “every minute”.
On Tuesday, Russian forces struck the Black Sea town of Ochakiv, damaging apartment buildings and killing two people, including a 6-year-old child. Six other people, including four children, were injured. One of them, a 3-month-old baby, is in a coma, authorities said.
The unusually intense wave of fire came as G-7 leaders pledged continued support for Ukraine and prepared new sanctions against Russia, including caps on oil prices and higher tariffs on goods.
Zelenskyy requested more air defense systems from his Western allies to help his forces fight back. NATO support for Ukraine will be at the center of a summit starting this week in Madrid, and a first signal of unity came on Tuesday when Turkey agreed to drop its opposition to Sweden’s membership and Finland to NATO.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the two Nordic countries to abandon their long-standing non-aligned status and seek NATO membership. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had blocked the move, insisting they change their stance on Kurdish rebel groups Turkey considers terrorists.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the West that “the more weapons will be injected into Ukraine, the longer the conflict will continue and the longer the agony of the Nazi regime supported by Western capitals will last”.
Russia has falsely characterized the war as a campaign to “denazify” Ukraine – a country with a democratically elected Jewish president who wants closer ties with the West.
In a grim message to NATO leaders, Russian state space company Roscosmos released satellite images and precise coordinates of the conference hall where their summit will be held.
He also posted images and contact details of the White House, the Pentagon and government seats in London, Paris and Berlin – calling them “decision-making centers supporting Ukrainian nationalists” in a message on the Telegram app. This wording echoes. Putin’s warnings that he might target such centers in response to what he called Western aggression.
In other developments:
— One of two Britons sentenced to death by separatist forces in eastern Ukraine has filed a formal appeal, Russian news agency Tass reported on Wednesday. The report says the appeal filed on Shaun Pinner’s behalf will be heard within two months.
Pinner, Aiden Aslin and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun were sentenced to death on June 9 and given a month to appeal. The court said they were fighting for Ukraine as mercenaries and therefore were not entitled to the protections given to prisoners of war. There was no mention of calls for the other two men.
— The two combatant nations continued a sporadic series of prisoner exchanges. Ukraine has exchanged 15 Russian prisoners of war for 16 Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian, Ukrainian newspaper Pravda reported on Tuesday.
– Ukrainian Pravda also reported that in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, the mayor was arrested on Tuesday and the occupation authorities seized his computer hard drive and documents after he refused to cooperate with local officials appointed by Russia. Russian news agency Tas confirmed the detention.
– Bulgaria said on Tuesday it was expelling 70 Russian diplomats designated as “a threat to national security”, ordering them to leave within five days. A Bulgarian foreign ministry statement said it would reduce the staff of the Russian embassy in Sofia “to 23 diplomatic staff and 25 administrative and technical staff”.
Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters Oleksandr Stashevskyi in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.