Macron says Russia can't win in Ukraine after strike on mall

French president calls Russia's airstrike on a shopping mall that killed 18 people 'a new war crime'



Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk. — AP
Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk. — AP

By AP

Published: Wed 29 Jun 2022, 1:09 AM

French president denounced Russia’s fiery airstrike on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine as a “new war crime” on Tuesday and vowed the West’s support for Kyiv would not waver, saying Moscow “cannot and should not win” the war.

The strike, which killed at least 18 people in the central city of Kremenchuk, came as leaders from the Group of Seven nations met in Europe. It was part of unusually intense barrage of Russian fire across Ukraine, including in the capital of Kyiv, that renewed international attention as the war drags on.

Speaking at the end of the G-7 summit in Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to address that concern, vowing that the seven leading industrialised democracies would support Ukraine and maintain sanctions against Russia “as long as necessary, and with the necessary intensity.”

“Russia cannot and should not win,” he said. He called Monday’s attack on the mall “a new war crime”.

As they have in other attacks, Russian authorities claimed that the shopping centre was not the target.

How to counter Russia and back Ukraine will also be the focus of a summit this week of the western NATO alliance, whose support has been critical to Kyiv’s ability to fend off Moscow’s larger and better equipped forces. Ukrainian leaders, however, say they need more and better weapons if they are to hold off and even drive back Russia, which is pressing an all-out assault in Ukraine’s eastern region of the Donbas.

As Macron spoke, rescuers combed through the charred rubble of the shopping mall that authorities said was struck when more than 1,000 afternoon shoppers and workers were inside.

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Kateryna Romashyna, a local resident, said that she had just arrived at the mall when an explosion knocked her down. When another blast came about 10 minutes later, she realised she needed to get away.

“I ran away from the epicentre with all of my strength,” she said. Fighting back tears, she added: “You have to be a real monster” to strike a shopping mall.

Many of those inside quickly fled the building when an air raid siren sounded and took shelter across the street, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky said. Several of the bodies of those who didn’t make it out in time are burned beyond recognition, he said.

In addition to the 18 killed, authorities said 59 were wounded. Another 21 people are still missing, Monastyrsky said.

The attack recalled strikes earlier in the war that hit a theatre, a train station, and a hospital. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called it “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history”.

Rocket attacks continued elsewhere in Ukraine, with authorities in the city of Dnipro reporting that workers at a diesel car repair shop were trapped in rubble after a strike from a cruise missile fired from the Black Sea, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The Ukrainian military managed to intercept and destroy other missiles fired at the city, the agencies said.

As condemnation came in from many quarters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov struck a defiant note, saying Russia would press its offensive until it fulfils its goals. He said the hostilities could stop “before the end of the day” if Ukraine were to surrender and meet Russia’s demands, including recognising its control over territory it has taken by force.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov claimed that warplanes fired precision-guided missiles at a depot that contained Western weapons and ammunition, which detonated and set the mall on fire. Ukrainian authorities said that in addition to the direct hit on the mall, a factory was struck, but denied it housed weapons.

Konashenkov also alleged that the mall was not in use, a false claim that witnesses contradicted.

One survivor, Oleksandr, a mall employee, told the AP from a hospital bed that the shopping centre was packed with customers. He recalled stepping outside with a colleague for a cigarette when the air raid siren went off.

“There was a black tunnel, smoke, fire,” he said. “I started to crawl. I saw the sun up there, and my brain was telling me I need to save myself.”

Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said the missile attack was one of Russia’s “crimes against humanity.” She emphasized the need for all Ukrainians to remain alert and expect a similar strike “every minute.”

On Tuesday, Russian forces struck the Black Sea city of Ochakiv, damaging apartment buildings and killing two, including a 6-year-old child. A further six people, four of them children, were wounded. One of them, a 3-month-old baby, is in a coma, according to officials.

The unusually intense spate of fire came as the G-7 leaders pledged continued support for Ukraine and prepared new sanctions against Russia, including a price cap on oil and higher tariffs on goods.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the West that “the more weapons are pumped into Ukraine, the longer the conflict will continue and the longer the agony of the Nazi regime backed by Western capitals will last”.

In a sinister message to NATO leaders, Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos published satellite images and the precise coordinates of the conference hall where their summit will be held.

It also posted images and the coordinates of the White House, the Pentagon and the government headquarters in London, Paris and Berlin — referring to them as “decision-making centres supporting the Ukrainian nationalists” in a message on the Telegram app. That wording echoes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warnings that he could target such centres in response to what he has called Western aggression.

In other developments, the two fighting countries continued a sporadic series of prisoner exchanges. Ukraine exchanged 15 Russian prisoners-of-war for 16 Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian, the Ukrainian Pravda news outlet reported.

Ukrainian Pravda also reported that in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, the mayor was detained on Tuesday and occupying authorities seized his computer hard drive and documents after he had refused to cooperate with Russian-appointed local officials. Russia’s Tass news agency confirmed the detention.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria said on Tuesday it was expelling 70 Russian diplomats designated “a threat to national security,” ordering them to leave within five days.


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