G7 leaders have condemned a deadly Russian missile attack on a busy Ukrainian shopping center as a “horrific” war crime.
In a statement Monday, leaders of the G7, meeting in Germany, promised that Russian President Vladimir Putin and those responsible for the attack would be held accountable.
At least 18 people were killed, and 59 were injured in the raids in Kremenchuk.
“Arbitrary attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” the G7 statement said.
Ukraine accused Russia of deliberately attacking civilians, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it “one of the most brutal terrorist acts in European history” in his evening telegram on Telegram.
“A peaceful city, an ordinary shopping center — women, children, ordinary citizens inside,” said Zelenskyy, who previously shared a video of the mall going up in flames with dozens of rescuers and a fire truck outside.
Ukraine’s Air Force Command said the mall was hit by two long-range X-22 missiles fired by Tu-22M3 bombers flying from Shaykovka airport in Russia’s Kaluga region.
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, wrote on Twitter, without citing evidence, that the attack was a “Ukrainian provocation.”
“Just what the Kyiv regime needs to keep its focus on Ukraine before [the] NATO summit,” he said, referring to the Alliance’s meeting in Madrid that will begin on Tuesday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking from the G7 meeting in the Bavarian Alps, said the attack on Kremenchuk showed Putin’s “depth of brutality and barbarity”.
“Putin must realize that his behavior will do nothing but reinforce the determination that the UK and every other G7 country support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the world was “horrified”, while the office of UN chief Antonio Guterres called the attack “utterly regrettable”.
Kremenchuk had thus far been spared direct hits in the conflict, Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily press conference.
“We reiterate that the parties have an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron also denounced the attack as an “abomination”.
European Commission President Charles Michel criticized the Russians for a “gruesome and arbitrary” attack on Kremenchuk.
“Russian scare and intimidation tactics will never work,” he wrote on Twitter. “Ukraine will prevail with the support of its partners at the G7 and beyond.”
Diplomats said the UN Security Council would hold an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the attack.
The Russian raid on Monday echoed attacks earlier in the war that killed large numbers of civilians, such as one in March on a Mariupol theater where many civilians had been holed up, leaving an estimated 600 dead, and another in April on a train station in the east of the city. Kramatorsk, in which at least 59 people died.
However, Moscow denies targeting civilians.
The G7, meanwhile, unveiled plans to seek new sanctions against Russia, including a price cap on oil and higher tariffs on goods.
They also pledged to continue to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary”. In a joint statement Monday, after holding a video link session with Zelenskyy, the leaders underlined their “unwavering commitment to supporting the government and people of Ukraine in their courageous defense of their country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The US appeared poised to respond to Zelenskyy’s call for more air defense systems elsewhere. At the same time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced in Brussels plans to significantly expand the Alliance’s rapid response forces as part of his response to an “era of strategic competition”.
The NATO Response Force currently has approximately 40,000 soldiers. When its leaders meet in Spain for a summit on Tuesday, Stoltenberg said, NATO will agree to provide Ukraine with further military support — including secure communications and anti-drone systems.