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Russia’s UK ambassador has described victims of the Kremlin airstrike on a crowded Ukrainian shopping mall as ‘collateral damage’.
The strike killed 18 people and more than 40 were wounded after two long-range X-22 missiles fired from Tu-22M3 bombers flew from Shaykovka airfield in Russia’s Kaluga region on Monday.
Images from the scene showed giant plumes of black smoke from a shopping center engulfed in flames, as emergency crews rushed in and onlookers watched in distress.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Telegram post that the number of victims was ‘unimaginable,’ citing reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack.
‘The Russian strike today on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk is one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history,’ he said in a broadcast posted on Telegram.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s UK ambassador Andrei Kelin echoed Russian authorities’ claim that the shopping centre was not the target.
He told Channel 4 News: ‘As was stated by the (Russia) Ministry of Defence, we were targeting only military infrastructure.’
Russian missiles hit a busy shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk in Ukraine on Monday
Moscow’s UK ambassador Andrei Kelin (pictured) echoed Russian authorities’ claim that the shopping centre was not the target. He told Channel 4 News: ‘As was stated by the (Russia) Ministry of Defence, we were targeting only military infrastructure’
The crowded mall in Kremenchuk had around 1,000 shoppers inside when missiles rained down on the building on Monday
He added: ‘And that was the case because the attack was launched against a factory on the territory of which a large amount of weapons, that has come from the United States and Europe, and that was the aim of the attack.
‘Unfortunately, a detonation happened and the fire has spread on the nearby shopping mall, but this shopping mall has been empty and it doesn’t work since March of this year.’
Mr Kelin claimed there was ‘no crowd’ in the shopping centre, but acknowledged ‘some people probably’ died in the area.
‘Yes, it’s a tragic event. Unfortunately, collateral damage happens,’ he said.
The strike came as Russia stepped up its barrage of fire across Ukraine, including in the capital Kyiv.
Boris Johnson and fellow G7 leaders condemned Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and the attack in Kremenchuk as the summit in Germany drew to a close.
A rescue operation was underway on Monday as emergency services rushed to the scene
The Prime Minister said it was an act of ‘utter barbarism’.
‘People are just shocked by what Putin is capable of doing,’ he said.
Earlier, the Prime Minister said the ‘price of freedom is worth paying’ and the UK must be prepared to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia for as long as it takes despite the cost.
The conflict in Ukraine has added to the rising cost of living by exacerbating turbulence in international energy prices and causing food shortages due to supplies of grain being prevented from leaving the country’s ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
But speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, Mr Johnson said those pressures will start to ease and the long-term economic impact of defending the rules-based system of international conduct will be beneficial to the global economy.
Mr Kelin also blamed the supply of weapons from Western nations to Kyiv for escalating the war.
Firefighters desperately tried to put out the blaze at the shopping mall after the missile strike was carried out in the industrial hub
Zelensky said in a Telegram post that the number of victims was ‘unimaginable,’ citing reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack
He added: ‘Yes, I am very much worried about where it will end. But most of all, I am worried about those appeals to continue the conflict… sending more and more weapons which are of higher and higher quality, like international weapons, like modern rockets weapons.
‘It is increasing the depths of conflict. It is escalation and it is very bad for Ukraine itself.’
He denied that Russia could widen its targets westwards.
The UK has so far contributed around £1.5 billion of economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine plus some £1.3 billion of military assistance.
The Prime Minister told the BBC at the summit in the Bavarian Alps: ‘I think that the economic impacts on the UK will start to abate, we’ll find ways around things and some of the cost pressures will start to come down.
Russia has carried out a deadly missile strike on a busy shopping centre in Ukraine in Putin’s latest barbaric attack against civilians
It is just the latest strike carried out by Vladimir Putin’s forces against defenceless civilians in Ukraine
‘But just in terms of staying the course, imagine if you didn’t.
‘Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, a sovereign, independent territory, the lessons for that would be absolutely chilling in all of the countries of the former Soviet Union, you can see what’s happening in the Baltic countries already.
‘But the read across would also be felt in east Asia, as well.
‘So, in terms of the economic effects of that, that would mean long-term instability, it would mean anxiety across the world.’
Comparing the situation to the defeat of Nazi Germany, Mr Johnson declined to put a limit on UK support.
Zelensky stressed that the target presented ‘no threat to the Russian army’ and had ‘no strategic value’
Kremenchuk is an industrial hub in central Ukraine, situated on the banks of the Dnipro River
‘The point I would make to people is, I think that sometimes the price of freedom is worth paying.
‘And just remember, it took the democracies, in the middle of the last century, a long time to recognise that they had to resist tyranny and aggression. It took them a long time, it was very expensive.
‘But what it bought in the end, with the defeat of the dictators, particularly of Nazi Germany, it bought decades and decades of stability, a world order that relied on a rules-based international system.
‘And that is worth protecting, that is worth defending, that delivers long-term prosperity.’