• West pledges unwavering support for ‘as long as it takes’
• Troop on high readiness to be hiked to 300k: Stoltenberg
Two Russian missile strikes on a crowded mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk killed at least 13 people and injured more than 50 yesterday, a regional governor said.
“Thirteen dead and more than 50 people have been injured. This is currently the situation in Kremenchuk due to the missile strikes,” said Dmytro Lunin, the governor of the Poltava region where Kremenchuk is located.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “over a thousand civilians” were in the mall when the missiles struck the city, which had a pre-war population of 220,000 people.
“The mall is on fire, rescuers are fighting the fire. The number of victims is impossible to imagine,” Zelensky wrote on Facebook.
A video shared by Zelensky showed the mall engulfed in flames with dozens of rescuers and a fire truck outside.
Emergency services also published images showing the smouldering remains of the building, with firefighters and rescuers trying to clear the debris.
At least eight civilians were also killed and 21 wounded in Russian missile attack on Lysychansk yesterday, Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region said on the Telegram messaging app.
“Today, when the civilian people were collecting water from a water tank, the Russians aimed at the crowd,” Gaidai said.
The Ukrainian defence ministry said the mall strike was deliberately timed to coincide with the mall’s busiest hours and cause the maximum number of victims. The Ukrainian air force said the mall was hit by Kh-22 anti-ship missiles fired from Tu-22 bombers from the region of Kursk in western Russia.
“The missile fire on Kremenchuk struck a very busy area which had no link to the hostilities,” the city’s mayor Vitali Maletsky wrote on Facebook.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on Kyiv’s allies to supply more heavy weapons and impose fresh sanctions on Russia. “Russia is a disgrace to humanity and it must face consequences,” he wrote on Twitter.
The US ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the world would “hold the Kremlin accountable for its atrocities”.
Western nations yesterday pledged unwavering support for Ukraine in the war with Russia, including more sanctions on Moscow and air-defence systems, as Russian forces closed in on the last big city still held by Ukrainian troops in eastern Luhansk province.
Leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, meeting at a German alpine resort, said they would keep sanctions on Russia for as long as necessary and intensify international pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s government and its ally Belarus.
“Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, sovereign, independent territory,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC.
“The lessons for that would be absolutely chilling. The point I would make to people is I think that sometimes the price of freedom is worth paying.”
The United States said it was finalising a weapons package for Ukraine that would include long-range air-defence systems — arms that Zelensky specifically requested when he addressed the leaders by video link yesterday.
Despite the boost from its allies, Ukraine was enduring another difficult day on the battlefront following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and street fighting.
Russian artillery was pounding Lysychansk, its twin just across the Siverskyi Donets River, which Luhansk province governor Serhiy Gaidai said was suffering “catastrophic” damage. He urged civilians to evacuate urgently. The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said the Russians were trying to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Russian war planes had also struck near the city, the general staff said in its daily update.
A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russia had carried out about 60 strikes against Ukraine over the weekend.
In his address to the G7 leaders, Zelensky had pleaded for more arms, US and European officials said. He asked for help to export grain from Ukraine and for more sanctions on Russia.
The G7 nations promised to tighten the squeeze on Russia’s finances with sanctions, including a deal to cap the price of Russian oil that a US official said was “close”, and promised up to $29.5bn more for Ukraine.
“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” a G7 statement said.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said its troops on high readiness would be massively boosted to over 300,000, with the Western alliance set to adopt a new strategy describing Moscow as a direct threat.
“They have chosen confrontation instead of dialogue. We regret that — but of course, then we need to respond to that reality,” he told reporters.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (centre front row), G7-leaders and participants of the outreach programme pose for a family photo at Elmau Castle, southern Germany. (AFP)
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