By Reuters and published by CNA
Kremenchuk, Ukraine – Western nations on Monday (Jun 27) pledged unwavering support for Ukraine in the war with Russia, including more sanctions on Moscow and air-defence systems, as Ukrainian officials said two Russian missiles struck a shopping centre, killing at least 13 people and wounding 50 others.
Leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, meeting in Germany, 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 United States said it was finalising a weapons package for Ukraine that would include long-range air-defence systems – arms that Zelenskyy specifically requested when he addressed the leaders by video link on Monday.
Ukraine meanwhile endured 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 eastern Luhansk province governor Serhiy Gaidai said was suffering “catastrophic” damage. He urged civilians to evacuate urgently.
Lysychansk is the last big city still held by Ukraine in Luhansk, half of the industrial Donbas region, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital Kyiv early in the war, now in its fifth month.
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.
Russian Sunday reports that troops had already entered Lysychansk could not be confirmed by Reuters.
Dmytro Lunin, governor of the central Poltava region, wrote on Telegram that 13 people had now been confirmed killed by the strike, adding that it was too soon to talk of a final death toll as rescuers continued to trawl through the rubble.
Lunin also wrote on Telegram that 21 people had been hospitalised, and 29 others had been given first aid without hospitalisation.
“It’s useless to hope for decency and humanity from Russia,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram.
Russia did not immediately comment on the Ukrainian accusations.
A Reuters reporter in Kremenchuk saw the charred husk of the shopping centre with a caved-in roof. Firefighters and soldiers were pulling out mangled metal and other debris as they searched for survivors.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the attack was “deplorable”. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it the “latest in a string of atrocities”.
‘We sent him messages’
As night began to fall, rescuers brought lights and generators to continue the search. Family members, some close to tears and with hands over their mouths, lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers had set up a base.
Kiril Zhebolovsky, 24, was looking for his friend, Ruslan, 22, who worked at the Comfy electronics store and had not been heard from since the blast. “We sent him messages, called, but nothing,” he said. He left his name and phone number with the rescue workers in case his friend is found.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to rid the country of far-right nationalists and ensure Russian security. It denies targeting civilians in a conflict that has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing and laid waste to cities.
Russian forces also control territory in the south, including the port city of Mariupol, which fell after a long and devastating siege.
A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russia had carried out about 60 strikes against Ukraine over the weekend.
The official said a weekend strike in Kyiv that hit apartments was close to a factory that made munitions for Ukrainian forces.
In his address to the G7 leaders, Zelenskyy asked again for more arms, US and European officials said. He requested help to export grain from Ukraine and for more sanctions on Russia.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington was in the process of finalising a package that included long-range air-defence systems.
The G7 nations promised to squeeze Russia’s finances further – including a deal to cap the price of Russian oil that a US official said was “close” – and promised up to US$29.5 billion more for Ukraine.
The White House said Russia had defaulted on its external debt for the first time in more than a century as sweeping sanctions have effectively cut the country off from the global financial system.
Russia rejected the claims, telling investors to go to Western financial agents for the cash which was sent but bondholders did not receive.
The war has created difficulties for countries way beyond Europe’s borders, with disruptions to food and energy exports hitting the global economy.
Top: A Russian missile strike hit a crowded shopping centre with 1, 000 people in it, in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Monday, killing at least 13 people and wounding 50. Footage circulated by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed a huge blaze raging in the mall Photo: Twitter and published by Business Standard
First insert: Rescuers work at the site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kremenchuk, in Poltava region, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters and published by Cyprus Mail
Second insert: Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kremenchuk, in Poltava region, Ukraine, on June 27, 2022. Photo: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via Reuters and published by CNA
Third insert: A smoke rises over remains of a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on June 17, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Oleksandr Ratushniak and published by CNA
Front Page: Footage showed fire and smoke pouring from the shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike. Photo: CNN