Kremenchuk strike: 'I didn't think they would hit a mall - it's a safe place'

By Sophie Williams
BBC News, Kremenchuk

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Watch: Survivors in hospital speak about the attack on a mall in Kremenchuk

Maksym Musienko, 26, was at his job in an electronics store at the Kremenchuk shopping mall on Monday, helping customers buy air conditioners to combat the summer heat.

He says there were about 100 customers in the shop at the time.

"We were working. There were a lot of people in the shop, but I don't remember anything after that," he says.

At 16:00 local time, a Russian missile struck the mall in the centre of the city. At least 18 people were killed and 59 left injured. The toll is expected to rise.

"The shopping centre is not a place of danger for the Russians. We thought we were far away from the frontier," Maksym says.

He has a shrapnel wound, concussion and multiple scratches.

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Maksym was working in an electronics store during the strike

His wife, Viktoria, sits by his side in the hospital. They just celebrated their anniversary and it is her birthday next week.

She was at home when the explosion struck and instantly tried to call her husband, fearing the worst.

"He picked up his phone and said he was in the centre of the fire," she says.

Viktoria's neighbours helped her get to the site of the shopping centre.

"Everything was black and then the neighbours said he was in the hospital," she says.

"We didn't invade anyone, we just want to live," Maksym adds.

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The shopping centre has been gutted by the fire, BBC reporters on the scene found

In the next room, a man who gave his name as Mykola remembers waking up in the ruins next to his wife.

"We tried to get out. I helped my wife and helped a girl on our way. I saw people lying around, some weren't responding. The fire was getting bigger and I was walking on glass," he adds.

His wife is also in the hospital and is receiving treatment. Mykola makes sure he messages her every two hours.

"I didn't think this would happen," he says. "I thought they were trying to ruin our infrastructure. I didn't even think they would hit a shopping centre. There are women and children. It's a safe place."

Image caption,
The scene outside the mall in Kremenchuk

That safe place is now a mangled mess. Rescuers are still at the scene trying to pick apart the debris, which is all that's left of the site.

The shopping mall site is in a busy part of town - approximately 36,000 people live in within 2km. It had a food court and a number of stores that sold a range of goods - from clothes to jewellery.

One Kremenchuk resident, Mischa, says he has been to the shopping mall a few times since the invasion. It's a big mall that closes during an air raid, he says.

"There was always lots of people there," he adds.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the attack a "brazen terrorist act", while the leaders of the G7 group of richest nations said that indiscriminate attacks on civilians were a war crime.

A memorial to those who have died has been set up next to the building's remains. A steady stream of people are coming to light a candle, lay flowers and pay their respects to those killed. Others are waiting to hear of news of those missing.

A woman named Anna had tears in her eyes as she told the BBC that she had friends working in the shopping centre's pharmacy.

"My friends there are all young and under 30. My son was meant to be there," she said.

"What are they doing? We are going to get killed. I want them [Russia] to take responsibility."

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