26 May 2024, 09:37

Toll from Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store rises to 11: governor

KHARKIV, Ukraine, May 26, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - The death toll from a Russian
strike on a hardware superstore in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv rose
to 11 Sunday, the regional governor said, with President Volodymyr Zelensky
condemning the attack as "vile".

"Unfortunately, the death toll at 'Epitsentr' has increased to 11 people,"
Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said on Telegram, referring to the
store hit on Saturday.

Earlier, he said six people had "died on the spot", 40 were wounded and 16
were missing after two guided Russian bombs hit the store.

Two of those killed "were men who worked in the hypermarket", Synegubov said
in a video on Telegram.

Thick black smoke billowed from the gutted Epitsentr superstore on the
northeastern outskirts of the city, as firefighters sprayed water on a blaze
sparked by the strikes, AFP journalists saw.

The Epitsentr chain sells household and DIY goods.

Still wearing her uniform, Lyubov, a cleaner at the store, recalled how she
escaped the building.

"It happened all of a sudden. We didn't understand at first, everything went
dark and everything started falling on our heads," she said.

"It was good that my phone lit up, thanks to the flashlight I found where to
go, but in front of us everything was burning already."

- 'Obviously civilian' target -

"As of now, we know that more than 200 people could have been inside the
hypermarket," Zelensky said Saturday on Telegram, condemning the daylight
attack on an "obviously civilian" target.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X that Russia's strikes on the
store were "unacceptable".

"France shares the pain of the Ukrainians and remains fully mobilised
alongside them," he said.

Russia's TASS state news agency cited a security source claiming that a
missile strike destroyed a "military store and command post" inside the
shopping centre.

The regional governor said there was "no contact with some of the staff" and
"according to our information, visitors could still be in the building".

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, is just a few dozen kilometres from
the border and regularly comes under attack from Russian missiles.

Synegubov said the city was under "massive rocket fire all day" on Saturday.

- 'Brutal blow' -

Later Saturday, another strike hit the centre of Kharkiv, wounding 14 in an
area containing a post office, a hairdresser and a cafe, the city's mayor
Igor Terekhov said.

Zelensky had visited Kharkiv on Friday and met with officials to discuss the
defence of the surrounding region.

On Saturday, he urged world leaders to supply Ukraine with "sufficient air
defence protection" to "prevent such terrorist attacks".

"Russia struck another brutal blow at our Kharkiv -- at a construction
hypermarket -- on Saturday, right in the middle of the day," Zelensky said.

"Only madmen like Putin are capable of killing and terrorising people in such
a vile way," he said, referring to the Russian president who ordered his
troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

The latest attacks came after Russia launched a ground offensive in the
Kharkiv region on May 10. Ukraine said Friday that it had managed to halt
Moscow's progress and was counterattacking.

Ukraine's rescue service posted images of firefighters spraying water inside
the blazing Epitsentr store building, with the roof torn open and debris
strewn around.

They said the fire had raged over an area of 10,000 square metres (108,000
square feet) but that the firefighters had managed to contain it.

"There were a lot of workers and shoppers inside," Zelensky said.

He said later that the hypermarket had "burned to the ground" and that nearly
60 people had been wounded in Kharkiv throughout the day.

- Border strikes -

Russia and Ukraine accused each other's forces of attacks along the border

Russia said Ukraine shelled a small town in the Belgorod region, killing two
people and wounding 10.

Ukraine said Russia shelled the village of Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi, a railway hub
in the region of Kharkiv, wounding five, the regional prosecutor's office

It said two vehicles came under fire: a car with two passengers and an
ambulance with a driver, a paramedic and a 64-year-old patient.

Russia also carried out air strikes on the Kupiansk district, damaging a
factory and residential buildings, prosecutors said.

In the eastern Donetsk region, shelling on Saturday killed a 40-year-old
woman and wounded four other people, said the head of the regional
administration, Vadym Filashkin.

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