Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-06-27 22:23:43 : Valerie Hopkins
KREMENCHUK, Ukraine — Late into the evening on Monday night, the Amstar shopping mall was still smoking as hundreds of firefighters and emergency workers sought to clear away the rubble.
“This is a shock for all of us,” said Olha Usanova, a deputy mayor of Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine, where a Russian airstrike left at least 13 people dead and dozens injured.
“The worst thing is that this is a shopping mall,” she added. “Any of us could have been here.”
Sitting along the Dnieper River, Kremenchuk is a major Ukrainian industrial hub with factories that produce railway cars and trucks. It is also home to Ukraine’s largest oil refinery, which has been targeted repeatedly by Russian missiles, according to the local news media, part of Moscow’s strategy to destroy the country’s fuel production and storage infrastructure.
The attack came as Russia has ramped up its missile strikes in the past three days, a show of force during the meeting of the Group of 7 nations and ahead of a NATO summit this week.
Ms. Usanova said one of her City Council colleagues had been inside the mall during the attack. He had been taken to the hospital, and was unconscious, unable to breathe on his own.
Dmytro Kravchenko, another member of the City Council and a deputy mayor, said that a friend of his was unable to reach her son, who worked in the Comfy.ua store selling technology and home appliances.
“He is unreachable as his phone has no signal,” said Mr. Kravchenko. “She fears the worst.”
He pulled up a photo of a 20-year-old woman who was killed in the strike. Her body was covered by a cloth, but her burned legs were visible. She was identified by her white sneakers.
He showed another photo of a blackened female body on a stretcher.
In the exposed facade next to the parking lot, some of the wares of a sporting goods store were still hanging on the shelves above the rubble, while destroyed mannequins littered the floor. Workers piled corrugated metal in the center of the parking lot faster than dump trucks could be filled to remove it.
“This is just one large mass grave,” Anton Geraschenko, an adviser to Denys Monastyrskyi, Ukraine’s interior minister, said as he surveyed the site.
Many residents came to examine the destruction of one of the city’s biggest shopping centers.
“I used to come here to shop all the time,” said Yana Medveditskaya, 23, who lives nearby. “They had a pet store, a great cosmetics store and a playground. Like any mall.”
Her friend Oleksandr Dun, also 23, said he had come to the scene just after the strike and witnessed chaos. He had returned in the evening in the hopes of helping with the rescue efforts.
“I saw bloody people; I saw just body parts,” he said. “People took off their own clothes to cover the dead.”
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