Rescuers dig for survivors after Russia's 'deplorable' attack on Ukraine shopping centre

There is no easing of the pain or suffering and Ukraine needs its international partners now more than ever, as ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports

Rescuers have worked into the night in a bid to find survivors of Russia's fatal attack on a crowded shopping centre in Ukraine.

At least 1,000 shoppers were inside the mall when a Russian missile struck, said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in what he described as “one of the most disastrous terrorist attacks in European history”.

At least 18 people have been killed and 59 sought medical help after Russian long-range bombers fired a missile striking the mall in the central city of Kremenchuk, Poltava, regional governor Dmytro Lunin said.

36 people are unaccounted for following the attack, he added.

A woman lays a toy at the shopping centre after the attack.

The number of casualties has been difficult to determine as rescuers continue to search the smouldering rubble.

According to Mr Lunin, over 1,000 people lugged sheets of twisted metal and broken concrete overnight. Drones whirred above, clouds of dark smoke still emanating from the ruins several hours after the fire had been put out.

In memory of those killed, the Poltava administration has declared three days of mourning.

President Zelenskyy earlier uploaded a video to his Facebook page showing dust and orange flames engulfing the mall.

"The invaders hit the mall with rockets, where there were more than a thousand civilians... The number of victims is unimaginable," the president wrote on Facebook.

An aerial view of the destroyed shopping centre. Credit: AP

In a joint statement, leaders of the G7 - who met on Monday pledging to support Ukraine "for as long as it takes" - said they "solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was present at the meeting, criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin's "barbarism" following the attack.

The United Nations echoed these sentiments, calling the attack "deplorable". At Ukraine’s request, the UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the attack.

In the first Russian government comment on the missile strike, the country’s first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, alleged multiple inconsistencies that he didn’t specify. He claimed on Twitter that the incident was a provocation by Ukraine.

Mr Zelenskyy stressed that the shopping mall target presented “no threat to the Russian army” and had “no strategic value.” He accused Russia of sabotaging “people’s attempts to live a normal life, which makes the occupiers so angry”.

One missile hit the shopping centre and another struck a sports arena in the city, said the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov.

The Ukrainian military said the shopping centre was hit by missiles fired by Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers from the skies over Russia’s western Kursk region.

Mayor Vitaliy Maletskiy wrote on Facebook that the attack “hit a very crowded area, which is 100% certain not to have any links to the armed forces".

The attack came as Russia was mounting an all-out assault on the last Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region - the city of Lysychansk.

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Moscow troops were “pouring fire” on Lysychansk from the ground and air, according to the local governor.

The latest attacks come just a day after large explosions hit the capital Kyiv on Sunday morning, with a nearby nursery left damaged with a crater in its courtyard.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed, four people were hospitalised with injuries and a seven-year-old girl was pulled alive from the rubble.

Officials believe the strike was done in a bid to intimidate Ukraine ahead of international summits on Monday and over the coming days, where support for the country will be one of the main topics on the agenda.

On Monday, the world's biggest economic powers vowed to "continue to provide financial, humanitarian as well as military support for Ukraine, for as long as it takes” at a G7 meeting in Germany.

Speaking at the meeting via video link, President Zelenskyy stressed the urgency of helping his country in its fight against Russia.

Officials say many are feared to have been killed in the Kremenchuk attack. Credit: Ukraine State Emergency Service

G7 leaders pledged to pursue a price cap on Russian oil, raise tariffs on Russian goods and impose other new sanctions.

Boris Johnson said the group were "working" on solving the grain crisis currently facing Ukraine.

“We will not rest until Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine," added the leaders in a statement.

Nato will also agree to deliver further military support to Ukraine - including secure communication and anti-drone systems - when they convene in Spain for a summit, according to the military alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.