War crimes investigators inspected the charred remains of a shopping mall devastated by a Russian missile strike on Tuesday as Ukraine mourned the victims of what Ukraine’s attorney general called ‘crimes against humanity’ .
A day after the attack in which at least 18 people were killed, the city of Kremenchuk in central Ukraine declared a day of mourning and firefighters cleared the rubble.
Residents left flowers in black vases on a wall near what was left of the mall. A small yellow and blue national flag was sticking out of one of the vases, and a row of stuffed animals sat next to them.
Exhausted firefighters sat on a sidewalk along another of the mall’s walls. Others were lying on a grass embankment, smoking and scrolling through their phones.
“We pulled out five bodies. We didn’t find anyone alive,” said a firefighter who gave only his name of Oleksandr.
Members of a team of international legal experts gathered next to the mall and briefed Ukrainians wearing uniforms identifying them as “war crimes police.”
“It’s a matter of crimes against humanity,” Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova told Reuters in Kremenchuk.
She said a missile hit a factory near the mall but it was closed and could not be considered a military target.
Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer working with an international initiative to help investigate war crimes in Ukraine, said early indications were that the factory that was hit had ‘nothing to do with the military’ .
“At first glance, it looks like a war crime. It appears to be a deliberate attack on a civilian target,” Jordash said, speaking from Kremenchuk.
Russia said the incident was caused by a strike on a legitimate military target. His Defense Ministry, quoted by state news agency RIA, said Russian forces fired missiles at a Western weapons storage depot in Kremenchuk and the detonation of stored ammunition caused the explosion. nearby shopping center fire.
Russia denies intentionally targeting civilians in its “special military operation” in Ukraine that destroyed cities, killed thousands and drove millions from their homes.
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