Russian missile strike hits shopping mall with more than 1,000 people inside, Ukraine says

Ukraine said it feared scores of civilians might be dead or injured after a Russian missile strike hit a crowded shopping mall in the center of the country Monday.

More than 1,000 people were inside at the time of the rocket attack, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

“The number of victims is impossible to imagine,” he added in a post on the Telegram messaging app, sharing video that showed plumes of gray smoke rising above a building that was consumed in flames as people and first responders ran in front of it.

The apparent attack hit a shopping center in Kremenchuk, a city in the Poltava region on the banks of Ukraine’s Dnieper River. Dmytro Lunin, head of the Poltava region, said at least 13 people were killed and more than 40 others were injured.

“It is too early to talk about the final number of the killed,” he said as night fell in Ukraine.

Standing inside the smoking rubble of what was once a supermarket, Anton Herashchenko, an adviser for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said rescuers were digging through what remained of the roof to find potential survivors.

“Rescue workers are underway to save people who just came to buy groceries,” he said, lifting the camera to show dozens of people frantically shoveling and sawing in to the blackened debris. 

The Ukrainian Air Force Command reported that the missiles were fired from long-range bombers that took off from a Russian air base north of Ukraine.

NBC News has not verified that claim or the number of any deaths. The Russian Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Ukrainian claims.

At least one Russian official on Monday appeared to make the claim that the missile strike in Kremenchuk was a false flag. Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N., called it a Ukrainian “provocation” on Twitter and mentioned Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv where hundreds were found in mass graves after Russian occupation.

The country has alleged in the past that the mass killings of Ukrainians in Bucha and other locations were manufactured by Ukraine. That 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 multiple countries, that Russian armed forces had committed numerous war crimes since the invasion began.

Zelenskyy said the site did not present any danger or strategic value for the Kremlin and alleged that it contributed to a pattern of horrific Russian acts.

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