World leaders call Ukraine shopping centre attack a ‘war crime’

G7 leaders have condemned the attack on a shopping centre in Kremenchuk on Monday as ‘abominable’ (Picture: AP)

World leaders have accused Vladimir Putin of committing a war crime after Russian missiles destroyed a shopping centre in central Ukrainekilling at least 18 people.

The attack in Kremenchuk has overshadowed the final day of the G7 summit in Germany.

In a joint statement, Boris Johnson and the leaders of the US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy condemned the ‘abominable attack’.

‘We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack,’ they said.

‘Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime.

‘Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account.’

The strike on Monday came as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky appeared via video link at the G7 summit to call for more sophisticated missile defences.

Russia’s defence ministry denied hitting the shopping centre on Tuesday, instead claiming it had struck a weapons depot nearby with the subsequent explosion triggering a fire in mall next door.

At least eighteen people died in the missile strike but there are concerns the death toll could rise as the wreckage of the shopping centre is searched (Picture: EPA)

‘In Kremenchuk, Russian forces struck a weapons depot storing arms received from the United States and Europe with high-precision air-based weapons,’ Moscow’s defence ministry said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.

‘As a result of the precision strike, Western-made weapons and ammunition concentrated in the warehouse … were hit.

‘The detonation of stored ammunition for Western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping centre located next to the depot,’ it added.

However, Ukraine has said the shopping centre was hit directly by Russian missiles and around 1,000 people were inside at the time of the strike.

At least 18 people have died and more than 60 have been injured, but the death toll is expected to rise as emergency workers search the rubble of the building.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for more sophisticated missile defences for his nation (Picture: Reuters)

The conflict in Ukraine has dominated the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps.

And the battle against the Russian invasion is set to remain at the top of the diplomatic agenda when leaders of Nato, including Mr Johnson, gather in Madrid on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson said the Kremenchuk attack ‘has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink’ but it would ‘strengthen the resolve’ of Ukraine and its G7 allies.

The prime minister also urged Russian scientists to defect to the UK to escape Mr Putin’s oppression, as he also set out a package of support for Ukrainian researchers.

Mr Johnson said experts who no longer feel safe in Russia should apply to come to a country that ‘values openness, freedom and the pursuit of knowledge’.

The devastation caused by the rocket attack in Kremenchuk (Picture: AP)

Ukraine has reported a sharp escalation in Russian attacks in recent days.

On Sunday, a residential building in the capital Kyiv was hit in the first attack on the capital since early June.

Alongside the shopping centre, Ukraine said Russian missiles also hit the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Lysychansk on Monday in one of the bloodiest days for civilian casualties in weeks.

Speaking hours after the first casualties were reported from Kremenchuk, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of a June 28-30 summit of the NATO military alliance.

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