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Russian report on strike at shopping center in Ukraine “absurd”, say local residents

#Russian #report #strike #shopping #center #Ukraine #absurd #local #residents

Residents of the Ukrainian city where at least 20 people were killed in a rocket attack on a crowded shopping center have dismissed the Russian army’s version as “absurd”.

Dozens were injured and many are still missing after the strike sparked a fire at a shopping center in Kremenchuk on Monday.

The Russian army claimed on Tuesday it struck a nearby arms depot, with the blast starting the fire at the mall, which Moscow said was “not operational” at the time.

But several Kremenchuk residents interviewed by AFP said they had never heard of guns being stored in the area.

“We heard that, it’s absurd,” said Polina Pushintseva.

“If you live here, I wonder how you can believe such things that are pure invention,” she added.

Pushintseva was in the kitchen of her fourth-floor apartment when the windows shattered from the impact of the attack across the street.

All that’s left of the mall are piles of charred rubble, shattered concrete walls blackened with smoke, and a few green plastic letters that once formed the sign with the store’s name – “Amstor.”

“Besides ‘Amstor’, there is absolutely no military infrastructure in this neighborhood, nothing at all,” said resident Antonina Shumilova.

“And behind the mall is a soccer field.”

10 minutes walk from “Amstor” there is a factory that produces construction machinery. AFP journalists visited it on Tuesday and found that one of its buildings had been destroyed while others remained intact. Military equipment was not to be seen.

– “No chance of survival” –

A day after the attack, residents are still processing what happened.

“It was such a shock,” Pushintseva said. “My brother came to my house quickly, we took our things, papers, money and left.”

“Everything was on fire, absolutely everything. Like a spark. I heard people screaming, it was horrible,” she added.

Pushintseva returned to her apartment on Tuesday after a sleepless night.

“I knew people who work in this center. But they are no longer with us,” she said.

“I can’t find the words to explain it,” she added, pointing to cuts from broken glass on her arm.

Locals laid flowers and left children’s toys next to the burned-out shop on Tuesday.

Clearance work was halted for more than an hour when air raid sirens sounded over the central Ukrainian city.

Four large cranes were deployed on site to lift heavy pieces of metal and collect debris, while fire engines, ambulances and several army trucks were lined up in the mall’s parking lot.

Across the street from the mall, Shumilova viewed the scene from her beauty salon. The glass of his front door had been shattered by the explosion.

Just before the strike, “an air raid alarm siren sounded, and 10 minutes later two explosions a second apart,” said Shumilova, who was with a client at the time.

They rushed for cover and waited before stepping onto the street, she said.

“After a quarter of an hour everything had already burned down and there were many people there. It’s terrible,” she said, referring to the victims.

In a fire of this intensity, “you have no chance of surviving,” said Ivan Melechovets, commander of a fire brigade that took part in the rescue operation on Monday.

“The hardest thing is seeing the bodies – adults, children,” he told AFP, adding that they are still looking for 50 to 60 missing people.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the attack on Tuesday and accused Russia of “calculated attacks” on civilian infrastructure.

“The Russians just kill people who have done nothing wrong,” Pushintseva said.

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#Russian #report #strike #shopping #center #Ukraine #absurd #local #residents

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