Russia Ukraine war: Kyiv shopping mall bomb attack – at least eight killed

At least eight people have been killed in the overnight bombing of a shopping centre in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, according to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, with rescuers combing the wreckage for other victims.

“According to the information we have at the moment, several homes and one of the shopping centres [were hit],” city mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Telegram channel.

The 10-storey Retroville shopping mall in the northwest of the city was hit by a powerful blast shortly before midnight on Sunday night that pulverised vehicles in its car park and left a crater several metres wide.

It demolished an entire wing of the shopping centre, which was still smoking on Monday morning.

The bombing also caused widespread damage to nearby blocks of high-rise flats.

“We heard the air raid sirens go off and then about a minute later there was a massive blast,” said Vadim Soloshenko, 31, who was watching a late night film in his eighth-floor apartment.

“We could see a flash of light and we felt a wave of hot air from the explosion, and we jumped behind the sofa to take cover. My flat is quite some way from the shopping centre, but it is completely wrecked inside.”

Oxana Kobzar, 38, who lives in a neighbouring block, added: “I was in our bomb shelter when the bomb [hit], it was super loud and terrifying. I was going to stay in Kyiv but I am probably going to leave for Europe now – we’ve had a few bombings already but this was one was massive and very close.”

Twisted bits of metal and other debris were strewn across the area for hundreds of metres, as firefighters and soldiers searched the devastation for victims.

In the night, AFP journalists said a huge blast shook the city and fires could be seen blazing in the mall.

“Enemy shelling” had caused fires on several floors and set several cars ablaze, emergency services said on Facebook.

They released security camera footage showing a massive explosion and a mushroom cloud, followed by a series of smaller blasts.

Firefighters pulled at least one man covered in dust from the twisted debris, according to more video released by the emergency services.

Soldiers cordoned off the site and told journalists to move back, warning of danger from unexploded munitions without elaborating further.

Neighbours in a housing block whose windows were shattered by the blast said they had seen a mobile rocket launcher near the mall for several days previously.

Kyiv has been hit by a series of strikes over the past week, with one on an apartment block earlier on Sunday wounding five people.

Russia’s advance on Kyiv has however largely stalled. Moscow’s forces engage in sporadic fighting to the northwest and east but have barely moved for two weeks.

Ukraine rejects Russian demand for surrender in Mariupol

Ukrainian officials have defiantly rejected a Russian demand that their forces in Mariupol lay down their arms and raise white flags in exchange for safe passage out of the besieged port city.

As Russia intensified its effort to pound Mariupol into submission, its ground offensive in other parts of Ukraine has become bogged down. Western officials and analysts say the conflict is turning into a grinding war of attrition, with Russia bombarding cities.

In the capital, Kyiv, a shopping centre in the densely populated Podil district near the city centre was left a smoking ruin after being hit by shelling that killed eight people, according to emergency officials. The attack shattered every window in a neighbouring high-rise.

Ukrainian authorities also said Russia shelled a chemical plant in northeastern Ukraine, sending toxic ammonia leaking into the air, and hit a military training base in the west with cruise missiles.

The encircled southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov has seen some of the worst horrors of the war, under Russian pounding for more than three weeks, in what Ukrainian and Western officials have branded a war crime.

Hours before Russia’s offer to open corridors out of the city in return for the capitulation of its defenders, an art school where some 400 people were taking shelter was hit by an airstrike, according to Ukrainian officials.

“They are under the rubble, and we don’t know how many of them have survived,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. In a video address, he vowed that Ukraine would “shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb”.

Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev had offered two corridors — one heading east toward Russia, the other west to other parts of Ukraine — in return for Mariupol’s surrender. He did not say what Russia would do if the offer was rejected.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it described as “bandits”, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Ukrainian officials rejected the proposal even before Russia’s deadline of 5am Moscow time for a response came and went.

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda.

The strike on the art school was the second time in less than a week that officials reported an attack on a public building where Mariupol residents had taken shelter. Last week, an airstrike devastated a theatre where more than 1000 people were believed to be sheltering. At least 130 people were reported rescued late last week, but there has been no update since then.

Mariupol officials said at least 2300 people have died in the siege, with some buried in mass graves.

City officials and aid groups say Russian bombardment has cut off Mariupol’s electricity, water, and food supplies and severed its communications with the outside world, plunging the remaining residents into a chaotic fight for survival.

“What’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Mariupol had a prewar population of about 430,000. About a quarter believed to have left in the opening days of the war, and tens of thousands got out over the past week by way of a humanitarian corridor, though other attempts have been thwarted by the bombardment.

In the Black Sea port city of Odessa, authorities said Russian forces damaged civilian houses in a strike. The city council said no one was killed.

Russia’s invasion has driven nearly 3.4 million people from Ukraine, according to the United Nations. The UN has confirmed over 900 civilian deaths but said the actual toll is probably much higher. Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but even conservative figures are in the low thousands.

Some who were able to escape Mariupol tearfully hugged relatives as they arrived by train in Lviv in western Ukraine.

“Battles took place over every street. Every house became a target,” said Olga Nikitina, who was embraced by her brother as she got off the train. “Gunfire blew out the windows. The apartment was below freezing.”

Mariupol is a key Russian target because its fall would allow Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine to link up. Its capture would also help Russia establish a land bridge to Crimea, which was seized from Ukraine in 2014.

More than three weeks into the invasion, the two sides seem to be trying to wear each other down, experts say, with Russian forces launching long-range missiles at cities and military bases as Ukrainian forces carry out hit-and-run attacks.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces on the ground are “essentially stalled”.

Talks between Russia and Ukraine have continued by video conference but failed to bridge the chasm between the two sides, with Russia demanding Ukraine disarm and declare itself neutral and Ukraine saying Russian forces must withdraw from the whole country.

Ukrainian delegation member Davyd Arakhamia told Ukrainska Pravda that there was a 90-minute session between top negotiators on Monday morning, to be followed by a full day of talks in various working groups.

US President Joe Biden was expected to talk on Monday with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Britain about the war. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that relations with the US are “on the verge of a breach”, citing “unacceptable statements” by Biden about Putin — an apparent reference to the American calling the Russian a “war criminal”.

In Ukraine’s major cities, hundreds of men, women, and children have been killed in Russian attacks.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general said a Russian shell struck a chemical plant outside the eastern city of Sumy just after 3am Monday, causing a leak in a 50-ton tank of ammonia that took hours to contain.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed the leak was a “planned provocation” by Ukrainian forces to falsely accuse Russia of a chemical attack.

Konashenkov also said an overnight cruise missile strike hit a military training centre in the Rivne region of western Ukraine. He said 80 foreign and Ukrainian troops were killed, though the figure could not be independently confirmed.

Britain’s defence ministry said that Ukrainian resistance had kept the bulk of Russian forces more than 25km from the city centre, but that Kyiv “remains Russia’s primary military objective”.

Russian troops are shelling Kyiv for a fourth week now and are trying to surround the capital, which had nearly 3 million people before the war. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a curfew extending from Monday evening through Wednesday morning.

A cluster of villages on Kyiv’s northwest edge, including Irpin and Bucha, have been all but cut off by Russian forces and are on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe, regional officials said. Associated Press journalists who were in the area a week ago saw bodies in a park.

In another worrying development, Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory agency said radiation monitors around the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant, the site in 1986 of the world’s worst nuclear meltdown, have stopped working.

The agency said that problem, and a lack of firefighters to protect the area’s radiation-tainted forests as the weather warms could mean a “significant deterioration” in the ability to control the spread of radiation in Ukraine and beyond.

Additional reporting, AP and agencies

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