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Over 20 people were killed in Russia's missile attack on a crowded Ukrainian mall

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Efrem Lukatsky
/
AP
Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Updated July 7, 2022 at 4:35 PM ET

KYIV, Ukraine — The death toll has climbed to 21 people in a Russian strike on a crowded shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, the city's mayor told NPR.

Authorities say up to 1,000 people were inside the mall in the afternoon of June 27 when a missile struck the Amstor mall.

In addition to the fatalities, 59 people were wounded, 25 of them hospitalized, and authorities have received 40 reports from relatives of people still missing, presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko previously said on the Telegram social media app.

Video from the scene showed huge clouds of black smoke and flame billowing from mall.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the Russian state "the largest terrorism organization in the world" in a daily video address posted after the attack.

"Only totally insane terrorists who have no place on Earth would strike such an object," Zelenskyy said. He has been pressing world leaders, especially the United States, to give Ukraine more advanced anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to guard against Russian air attacks.

Another missile hit a closed factory nearby.

Russia's government claimed the shopping center caught fire after Russia struck a nearby weapons depot. On Twitter, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations suggested Ukraine had fabricated the attack. Ukrainian officials reject these claims as false.

Russia has carried out numerous bombardments of Ukrainian population centers, attacks Moscow says are aimed at military installations but often hit purely civilian targets instead.

France's President Emmanuel Macron condemned the Russian missile attack as "an abomination." The United Kingdom's ambassador to Ukraine called it a "murderous Russian act." President Biden said the attack was "cruel," after coming out of a meeting of Group of Seven leaders in Germany where the U.S. and other countries mulled a price cap on Russian oil and gas.

The mall strike came during a particularly bloody week in Ukraine, as Russia escalated cruise missile strikes, even in parts of the country that had been relatively shielded from fighting since Russia invaded in February.

Jason Beaubien contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.