The fire that broke out following a Russian strike against a crowded shopping center in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk in the Poltava Oblast, resulting in several casualties, was due to the detonation of Western-made weapons and ammunition near the mall, Russia's Defense Ministry claimed on Tuesday, RIA reported.
According to Russia, the attack struck ammunition depots that stored these weapons, which were supposedly meant to be sent to Ukrainian forces in the Donbas. It was this strike, they claim, that triggered a fire that spread to a nearby shopping center.
"In Kremenchuk, Russian forces struck a weapons depot storing arms received from the United States and Europe with high-precision air-based weapons. As a result of the precision strike, Western-made weapons and ammunition concentrated in the warehouse ... were hit," Moscow's Defense Ministry said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.
"The detonation of stored ammunition for Western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping center located next to the depot."
The attack, which occurred on Monday, struck a mall where over 1,000 civilians were located, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The current estimates say at least 20 people were killed, dozens of people missing and over 50 injured.
Relatives of the missing in Kremenchuk were lined up on Tuesday at a hotel across the street from the wreckage of the shopping center, where rescue workers had set up a base.
Zelensky stressed that the shopping center had no strategic value as a target, though Russia maintains they have not attacked civilians in what they officially described as a "special military operation" and have only struck military targets.
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries, at a summit in Germany, said the attack was "abominable." Russian President Vladimir Putin and those responsible will be held to account, they said in a statement.
At a summit in Germany, leaders of the G7 industrialized democracies announced plans for a price cap on Russian oil, a new strategy designed to starve Russia of the resources for war without worsening a global economic crisis.
Next up will be a NATO summit Spain, at which the Western military alliance is expected to announce hundreds of thousands of troops shifting to a higher state of alert, and overhaul its strategic framework to describe Moscow as an adversary.
Israel has expressed "deep concern" following the reports of a rising number of civilian casualties following a Russian strike against a crowded shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, Israel's Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky said.
Israel is watching with deep concern the reports about the growing number of civilian casualties as a result of rocket shelling on a shopping center in #Kremenchuk. Deliberate attack on civilian objects is absolutely unacceptable. @IsraelinUkraine @IsraelMFA #UkraineRussiaWar— Michael Brodsky (@michael_brodsk) June 27, 2022
"Israel is watching with deep concern the reports about the growing number of civilian casualties as a result of rocket shelling on a shopping center in Kremenchuk," Brodsky tweeted. "Deliberate attack on civilian objects is absolutely unacceptable."
"Deliberate attack on civilian objects is absolutely unacceptable."Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky
The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on over 100 targets and banned the import of new Russian gold, increasing pressure on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in line with commitments made by the G7 this week.
"70 entities, many of which are critical to the Russian Federation’s defense industrial base, including State Corporation Rostec, the cornerstone of Russia’s defense, industrial, technology, and manufacturing sectors, as well as 29 Russian individuals," The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control stated in a press release
Targeting Russia’s defense industry will degrade Putin’s capabilities and further impede his war against Ukraine, which has already been plagued by poor morale, broken supply chains, and logistical failures,” Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen stated.
Tuesday's move imposed fresh sanctions on Rostec, Russia's state aerospace and defense conglomerate. The Treasury said Rostec's "management umbrella includes more than 800 entities across a wide range of sectors" and that all entities owned 50% or more, directly or indirectly, by Rostec are blocked.
Also sanctioned was United Aircraft Corporation, the maker of Russia's MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets - planes that are also flown by U.S. allies including some NATO members - and which is majority-owned by Rostec. The U.S. Treasury said this aims to "weaken Russia's ability to continue its aerial assault on Ukraine."
Ukraine has the high ground
Ukrainian forces are working to consolidate the position on the high ground in the city of Lysychansk in the Luhansk Oblast after the fall of Sievierdonetsk to Russia, while the Russian army's combat effectiveness continues to degrade, according to the latest UK defense intelligence update.
Russian forces finally took Sievierdoentsk after one of the bloodiest battles of the war that lasted several weeks. This, the UK intelligence update notes, was accomplished after Russia fielded the core elements of six different armies. However, Russia only managed to achieve a tactical success in the city, after Ukraine pulled its troops back, and the Russian forces are now increasingly being hollowed out.
As the UK intelligence update notes, Russia currently accepts a level of degraded combat effectiveness, something that is likely unsustainable long-term.
This is corroborated by the US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which, citing an unnamed senior US defense official, claimed that Russia is also relying heavily on retired officers in order to make up for loss of many senior officers and military leaders.
This is further compounded by unusually intense waves of long-range missile strikes throughout Ukraine, fired from both Russia and Belarus. These likely included both Soviet-era AS-4 KITCHEN missiles and the modern AS-23a KODIAK missiles, which were designed to be used against strategically important targets.
Despite their intended purpose, though, Russia instead seems to be using vast quantities of them solely to achieve a tactical advantage.
In addition, Ukraine has used its time to consolidate its positions further. In addition to seizing the high ground in Lyschansak, Ukrainian forces continue to launch operations to disrupt Russian command and control, with UK intelligence noting that Ukraine has managed to carry out several successful strikes deep behind enemy lines.
But these successful strikes aren't just limited to the Donbas. According to the ISW citing an unnamed US defense official, Ukrainian troops have managed to liberate several localities in the Kherson Oblast over the weekend, though which localities were liberated is unclear.
The Kherson Oblast in Ukraine's South is almost completely occupied by Russian forces after being seized relatively early in the war.
However, Russian forces have continued to fire on these liberated localities, according to the Ukrainian state media outlet Ukrinform.
Russia security forces detain mayor of Ukrainian city of Kherson
Russia-installed officials in Ukraine's Kherson region said their security forces had detained Kherson city mayor Ihor Kolykhayev on Tuesday after he refused to follow Moscow's orders, while a Kherson local official said the mayor was abducted.
Kherson, a port city on the Black Sea, sits just northwest of the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula. It was occupied during the first week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began in February, and a large part of the local population has left the region.
"I can confirm that Kolykhayev was detained by the commandant's (military police) office," Ekaterina Gubareva, the Moscow-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Halyna Lyashevska, an adviser to Kolykhayev, said the mayor was abducted after refusing to cooperate with Russian occupiers of the Ukrainian.
"This morning, the mayor of Kherson Ihor Kolykhayev came to one of the utility facilities where the remaining employees of the city council were working," Lyashevska said on her Facebook page.
"As soon as he got out of the car, he was immediately detained by the armed national guards and, most likely, the FSB," she said, referring to Russia's Federal Security Services.
Another Moscow-installed deputy in the region, Kirill Stremousov, told the Russian state RIA news agency earlier on Monday that Kolykhayev did "much damage" to Russia's "denazification process" in Ukraine.
"Finally, he was neutralized," RIA cited Stremousov as saying.
Russia has suffered considerable losses in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russia has so far lost 35,250 soldiers, 778 artillery systems, 243 MLRSs, 102 air defense systems, 14 ships, 636 drones, 217 aircraft, 185 helicopters, 3,704 armored vehicles, 1,567 tanks and 2,589 fuel tanks and other vehicles.
However, due to the nature of the war, exact casualties on both sides are impossible to ascertain.
This is a developing story.
Roman Meitav contributed to this report.