Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles pound Ukrainian shopping mall

AFP

Firefighters and soldiers searched on Tuesday for survivors in the rubble of a shopping mall in central Ukraine after a Russian missile strike killed at least 18 people in an attack condemned by the United Nations and the West.

Family members of the missing lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers set up a base after Monday's strike on the busy mall in Kremenchuk, in the region of Poltava, southeast of Kyiv.

More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. At least 18 people were killed and 25 hospitalised, while about 36 were missing, said Dmytro Lunin, governor of Poltava.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, at a summit in Germany, said the attack was "abominable".

"Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account," they said in a joint statement.

Zelenskiy said in a Monday evening video address that it was "not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping centre".

Russia has not commented on the strike but its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of a June 28-30 summit of the NATO military alliance.

"One should wait for what our Ministry of Defence will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already," Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.

The UN Security Council will meet on Tuesday at Ukraine's request following the attack. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the missile strike was deplorable.

BATTLE FOR LYSYCHANSK

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine endured another difficult day following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and street fighting.

Russian artillery pounded Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk's twin city across the Siverskyi Donets River.

Lysychansk is the last big city held by Ukraine in eastern Luhansk province, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital, Kyiv, early in the war.

Eight residents including a child were killed and 21 wounded by shelling when they gathered to get some drinking water in Lysychansk on Monday, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

There was no immediate Russian comment.

Ukrainian forces controlled the city but its loss was possible as Russia poured resources into the fight, he added.

"They really want this and a lot of reserves are being thrown just for this... We do not need to lose an army for the sake of one city," he told Reuters in an interview.

Rodion Miroshnik, the ambassador to Moscow of the separatist Luhansk People's Republic, said Russian troops and their Luhansk Republic allies were advancing westward into Lysychansk and street battles had erupted around the city's stadium.

Fighting was going on in several villages around the city, and Russian and allied troops had entered the Lysychansk oil refinery where Ukrainian troops were concentrated, Miroshnik said on his Telegram channel.

Reuters could not confirm Russian reports that Moscow's troops had already entered the city.

Russia also shelled the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine on Monday, hitting apartment buildings and a primary school, the regional governor said. Read full story

The shelling killed five people and wounded 22. There were children among the wounded, the governor said. 

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