Russia's Defense Ministry on Tuesday, denied an airstrike Monday that hit a Ukrainian shopping center – and killed at least 18 people – claiming the attack instead struck a weapons depot filled with U.S. and European arms that triggered an explosion and ignited a fire in the shopping center.
In a statement , Russia's Defense Ministry claimed the "detonation of munitions" caused a fire, and that the shopping mall was "nonfunctioning," contrary to Ukrainian reports of more than 1,000 shoppers inside the building at the time it was struck.
The statement comes one day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the air strike as "one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history," and urged the United States to consider Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism."
As of Tuesday morning, Ukraine's Crisis Media Center reported 18 people had died in Monday's missile strike, as rescuers scoured the obliterated shopping center for at least 36 missing individuals.
The Crisis Media Center also reported 59 people were injured in the attack, including 25 hospitalized.
The missile strike is the latest in a round of Russian attacks over the past week across Ukraine – including in the capital of Kyiv – as the war enters its fourth month. In response to condemnation from the West, Russia's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, posted a tweet on Monday calling the incident a "a new Bucha-style Ukrainian provocation," referencing the March massacre in the Ukrainian city of Bucha , which Russian officials blamed on "Ukrainian radicals," following reports the attack had been committed by retreating Russian forces. In a statement Monday, G-7 leaders condemned the attack as a war crime, calling it "abominable" and "indiscriminate," and calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be "held to account."
The G-7 statement came just as the alliance concluded their three-day meeting in Germany, announcing, among other initiatives, a military support package for Ukraine and a price cap on Russian oil . In a press conference Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO will increase high-readiness troops to 300,000 in response to the Ukraine War – a 650% increase from the 40,000 troops NATO currently has in its response force.
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