Firefighters work through the debris of the destroyed Amstor shopping mall in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Ukrainian officials say that a Russian missile strike killed at least 18 people at the retail center. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE
June 28 (UPI) -- A Ukrainian commander told U.S. and British military officials on Tuesday that Russia has intensified missile attacks in the eastern and southern parts of the country as crews continue to search for survivors of an attack on a shopping mall in central Ukraine.
Valeriy Zaluzhniy, Ukraine's commander in chief, told Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Chief of the British Defense Staff Adm. Tony Radakin late on Monday that Russian missile attacks have been relentless.
Since April, Russian forces have been aiming to control the Donbas, the far eastern part of Ukraine that includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and is home to a pro-Russia separatist population that's been at odds with the Ukrainian government for nearly a decade.
"Four days ago, the enemy fired 53 cruise missiles from various platforms, three days ago -- 26 missiles, two days ago -- almost 40, and 12 in the last 24 hours," Zaluzhniy said according to CNN.
He added that the Russian attacks have spanned from Kharkiv in the north to the Dnipro River on the southern Black Sea coast.
"The most intense hostilities are conducted in the north of Luhansk and Kharkiv regions. In this area, in the last 24 hours alone, the enemy carried out 270 artillery raids, using 45,000 rounds of ammunition, two missiles and 32 air strikes," he noted. "The situation is very difficult but controlled."
Meanwhile, crews are searching debris of the shopping center in Kremenchuk for survivors of Monday's missile attack. Kremenchuk is located in central Ukraine about 160 miles southeast of Kyiv and 145 miles southwest of Kharkiv.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said on Tuesday that 21 people were still missing and that the death toll has risen to at least 18.
The mall attack brought condemnation from the United States and Western allies, while Russia blamed the attack on ammunition from Western allies that had detonated at a nearby hangar.
Continued Russian strikes on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, have also killed several more people and injured dozens, Ukrainian officials said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that they were all civilians.
Officials said that Ukrainian forces have been able to slow Russian advances on Lysychansk in the Donbas region, after Russia ramped up attacks in recent days following their total capture of the key city of Severodonetsk. Ukrainian resistance kept Russian forces from fully controlling the city for weeks.
"Ukrainian forces continue to consolidate their positions on higher ground in the city of Lyschansak, after falling back from Sieverodonetsk," the British Defense Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. "Ukrainian forces continue to disrupt Russian command and control with successful strikes deep behind Russian lines."
A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo