Monday, June 24, 2024

Russian strike on Kharkiv shopping centre kills 14 as Zelensky calls for support

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A crowded DIY store in the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv was hit by a Russian strike on Saturday, leaving 14 people dead.

Two guided bombs hit the Epicentre hypermarket in a residential area of the city, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said on national television.

Thick black smoke was seen billowing into the air as a massive fire broke out at the shopping centre, with president Volodymyr Zelensky confirming 44 people had been injured.

Officials said that 11 of the dead had been identified while seven people remain missing after the deadly strike, and 120 people are understood to have been in the centre at the time.

The city centre is covered with debris after the Russian missile attack
The city centre is covered with debris after the Russian missile attack (AP)

The past week has seen an uptick in strikes on the city after Russian troops stormed across the border, opening a new front north of the city.

Russia has bombarded Kharkiv, which lies less than 30km (20 miles) from its border, throughout the war, having reached its outskirts in a failed bid to capture it in 2022.

Mr Zelensky issued a plea to Ukraine’s Western allies to help boost air defences to keep the country’s cities safe. Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron denounced the attack on the store as “unacceptable” in a social media post.

A separate early evening missile strike hit a residential building in the centre of the city of 1.3 million. The number of people wounded by that strike had climbed to 25 by Sunday morning.

The missile left a crater several metres deep in the pavement at the foot of the building, which also housed a post office, a beauty salon and a cafe.

Zelensky confirmed 14 people had been killed and 44 injured in the attack
Zelensky confirmed 14 people had been killed and 44 injured in the attack (AP)

Emergency workers ushered away residents of nearby apartment buildings while some of the injured were seen with blood on their faces.

Just over the border, in Russia’s Belgorod region, the regional governor said four residents died in Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.

Andriy Kudinov, director of the suburban shopping centre, told local media the hardware store was full of shoppers buying items for their summer cottages.

It took 16 hours to fully extinguish the fire at the centre, which had raged over an area of 13,000 square metres (15,548 square yards), interior minister Ihor Klymenko said.

Rescuers, medics and journalists occasionally had to rush away from the scene of both strikes on the city and take cover on the ground, fearing another strike, as has occurred during several recent Russian attacks.

Dmytro Syrotenko, a 26-year-old employee of the DIY centre, said: “I was at my workplace. I heard the first hit and … with my colleague, we fell to the ground. There was the second hit and we were covered with debris. Then we started to crawl to the higher ground.”

It is believed around 120 people were in the store at the time
It is believed around 120 people were in the store at the time (Reuters)

He added he was taken to safety by a rescue worker who helped him, several colleagues, and shoppers.

Mr Zelensky, in his nightly video address on Sunday, said the strike and carnage prompted widespread condemnation that should lead to “absolutely just consequences” and again underscores the need for Ukraine to secure sufficient air defences.

“This, in order for us to have enough air defence systems at least to defend Ukraine, our cities,” he said. “And so that our partners muster the resolve for preventive defensive actions against Russian terrorists.”

Ukraine, he said, would keep pressing its partners to speed up deliveries of F-16 fighter aircraft “to strengthen our defences against terrorist attacks on our cities and pressure from the Russian army on the front line”.

Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, but thousands have been killed and injured during its 27-month invasion of Ukraine.

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