Home News After Ukraine mall strike, witnesses described scene of ‘hell’

After Ukraine mall strike, witnesses described scene of ‘hell’

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KYIV — The day after a Russian strike hit a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing scores and plunging the building into flames, witnesses described a scene of “horror” and “hell,” as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky increased calls on Tuesday for Washington to designate Moscow a state sponsor of terrorism.

Ukrainian authorities said that Moscow launched at least one Kh-22 missile from the Caspian Sea region, which exploded in the Amstor shopping center shortly before 4 p.m. on Monday — a time when the mall was typically full of shoppers. After the strike, a fire engulfed the structure.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said that as of Tuesday that the death toll stood at 18, with dozens injured

As firemen and rescue workers combed through the ruins, these figures threatened to climb even higher. Many people are still missing, and seven body fragments were found among the wreckage, Monastyrsky said.

Leaders from the Group of Seven, meeting at a summit in Germany, said on Monday that the attack was “abominable.” On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron called it a “war crime” and that Russia “cannot and should not win” the war in Ukraine.

In an address late on Monday evening in Ukraine, Zelensky said the attack was “one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history.” He added that he had asked the United States to recognize Russia as “a state that sponsors terrorism” — a designation that could carry significant penalties.

At least 15 dead after Russian strike on shopping mall, Ukraine says

“The Russian state has become the largest terrorist organization in the world. And this is a fact. And this must be a legal fact,” Zelensky said.

On Tuesday, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson claimed that Russian rockets struck hangars storing Western-donated weapons and ammunition in Kremenchuk, causing a fire at the nearby mall, which he described as “nonfunctioning.”

However, those in the shopping center describe a completely different reality — one of panic and terror, after the explosion from the missile ripped through the building.

Tanya, 50, a salesperson at the Amstor mall — who asked that her last name and the name of her business not be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation in Ukraine — said that people in the shopping center had only a few minutes to react to air raid sirens warning that a Russian attack could be imminent.

Tanya said that she had received an alert on her telephone and was gathering up merchandise to close the store, when the blast wave threw her from her chair.

“A couple of seconds later and everything went dark — there was only the light of my computer,” she said. “I felt around me and there was glass everywhere.”

“People were shouting, ‘the roof, the roof!’ because I think in some part it had already fallen, and there were pools of water on the ground,” she said. “We had to get out before the supports collapsed.”

Tanya doesn’t know how many people were in the building. But she said the strike came at a time when people often stopped off at the grocery store in the mall on their way home from work.

Shortly after she got out, fire engulfed the area where she had been, she said.

A two-minute clip of closed-circuit TV footage from a park near the mall in Kremenchuk, released Tuesday, shows a view of the strike — with debris flying into a pond, and terrified adults and children running for shelter or throwing themselves into the water. The blast can be clearly seen.

Anna Vasenko, press officer for the Kremenchuk police, was among the first people to arrive at the mall after the explosion, which was around a mile from her office. The scene, she said, was “beyond words.”

“There was black smoke that made us choke — everything was black smoke, everything was on fire,” she said. “It was a horror — blood, tears — it was just hell.”

“Here was a hell that just 15 minutes before was full of life.”