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The death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit a crowded shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk has risen to at least 18, with at least 60 injured, as fighting continues for control of Lysychansk , the last Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region.

Regional Governor Dmytro Lunyn announced the updated toll of the June 28 strike on Telegram as rescue and cleanup operations in Kremenchuk continued overnight.

Lunyn said the mall was “completely destroyed” by the missile strike and 36 people were still missing. More than 1,000 people were inside the mall at the time of the attack, authorities said.

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Ukraine blamed Russia for the attack, saying missiles fired by Tu-22 long-range bombers were used.

On June 28, the Russian Defense Ministry denied targeting the mall, saying the missiles had been fired at an arms depot in Kremenchuk and that exploding ammunition stockpiles sparked the deadly blaze.

“As a result of a high-precision strike, Western-made weapons and ammunition concentrated in the storage area for further shipment to the Ukrainian group of troops in Donbass were hit,” the ministry said in a statement. . statement.

“The detonation of ammunition stored for Western weapons caused a fire in a non-functional shopping center next to the factory,” he added.

Russia also shelled Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, hitting apartment buildings and a primary school, the regional governor said. The bombing killed five people and injured 22, including children, the governor said.

Russian forces continued to shell Lysychansk in Donbass. Regional military administration chief Serhiy Hayday said Ukrainian forces still controlled Lysychansk but its loss was possible as Russia invested resources in the fight.

The British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence newsletter on June 28, Ukrainian forces continued to consolidate their positions on higher ground at Lysychansk, having abandoned its twin town, Syevyerodonetsk, to the Russians.

The bulletin indicates that Ukrainian forces continued to disrupt Russian command and control with successful strikes deep behind Russian lines.

British intelligence said Russian forces in the Donbass are increasingly “emptied” and their combat effectiveness has deteriorated, a situation “probably unsustainable” in the long term.

In the aftermath of the Kremenchuk strike, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of being the “biggest terrorist organization in the world” in a video on Telegram.

“Everyone in the world should know that buying or transporting Russian oil, maintaining ties with Russian banks, paying taxes and duties to the Russian state is giving money to terrorists,” did he declare.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Russia has repeatedly asserted that it was not targeting civilians in the unprovoked war it launched against Ukraine just over four months ago.

G7 leaders called the missile strike a war crime and vowed to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable.

Kremenchuk, an industrial city of just over 200,000, sits on the Dnipro River in the Poltava region and is the site of Ukraine’s largest oil refinery.

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