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The mall was the symbol of the new Kyiv – now it’s a ruined shrine to the dead

As Mikhail Moskalenko surveyed the bomb-damaged hallway of his seventh-floor apartment in Kyiv, he may have had bitter consolation. The damage could at least settle a longstanding dispute with his older brother in Moscow, with whom he has little contact.

He has spent most of his adult life there and accepts everything he sees on Russian TV,” said Mr Moskalenko, 66, rolling his eyes. “He refuses to believe me when I tell him Ukraine is being bombed because Russian TV didn’t mention it.”

However, the view from Mr. Moskalenko’s window could have convinced him.

Several hundred yards away, beyond newly landscaped parkland, was an apocalyptic scene—a smoking heap of collapsed masonry that hours earlier had been one wing of a new mall.

Just before midnight on Sunday, a rocket hit it, sending up a huge mushroom cloud and collapsing the building. Eight people died in the blast and at least 40 others were injured, two of them seriously, hospital officials said.

The blast not only turned the mall into a 40-foot-tall pile of rubble, but also gutted an adjacent 12-story apartment block. It also shattered virtually every window in other nearby high-rise buildings, some more than 200 feet tall. “Why would anyone bomb a mall?” Mr. Moskalenko added. “This is just an attempt to lower our morale.”

In response, Wladimir Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv and former world boxing champion, announced a curfew from 8 p.m. yesterday to 7 a.m. tomorrow. Last night, the Russian military said the mall was attacked because Ukrainian forces were using it as a base for mobile rocket launchers.

Eye-in-the-sky footage released by the Kremlin appeared to show one such vehicle firing from a patch of open land during the day before driving through Kyiv, stopping at the mall and parking inside. Kremlin footage then showed images of the mall that was hit Sunday night.

Military analysts said separate footage shared on social media appeared to show four military trucks parked in a garage at the mall. It was unclear whether they were rocket launchers or ordinary supply vehicles. A Ukrainian government spokesman declined to comment directly on the Russian claims, but said The Telegraph: “The Russians are marching in on us – we are defending ourselves and have the right to use any means to do so.”

The blast wasn’t the first the Ukrainian capital suffered during the invasion. At least half a dozen residential areas have been shelled in the past week. But it was by far the most destructive and deadly. So far, most missiles have claimed no more than a human life or two.

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Bodies lie on the site of a shopping center destroyed by a Russian bomb in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters/Marko Djurica

It was also, as Mr. Moskalenko said, a “moral pioneer”. The mall was a centerpiece of Kyiv’s newly developed Podil district, where chic new apartments have sprung up to replace run-down Soviet-era apartment blocks.

And while it looked like a giant warehouse from the outside, inside it offered a taste of the good life long denied to Ukrainians.

In addition to a movie theater, gym, ice rink, and children’s playground, there was a Tuscan wine bar, a sushi parlor, and a hip gastropub called The Loft.

Last night, some people admitted that it was the loss of the mall, as well as the loss of lives, that really brought war to them.

“That was the first time I started crying,” one said in a post on a Facebook page detailing the mall bombing.

Most Podil residents were asleep when the mall was hit, suggesting the Russian military had delayed the attack to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

Among the witnesses to the explosion was Vadim Soloshenko, 31, who was watching a horror film with his brother Sasha, 26, on the eighth floor of an apartment block. Shortly after an air-raid siren sounded, he saw a real horror film outside his window.

“We could see a flash of light and we felt a surge of hot air from the blast,” he said. “Then we jumped behind the sofa for cover. Later, when we looked out the window, we could see a huge fire.”

Like many Kiev residents, he had strips of thick duct tape taped over his windows to reduce fragmentation. “It worked fine, but the whole window frame was still blown out,” he said.

Oxana Kobzar, 38, a neighbor who was in the block’s basement bunker at the time, described the explosion as “super loud and frightening.” Since it had happened, she hadn’t even ventured outside to take a look.

“I’m so stressed out without seeing the damage it’s caused,” she said. “I was planning to stay in Kyiv, but I’ll probably go to Europe now. This bomb was way too big and way too close.”

Most of the dead were probably security guards and night workers in shopping malls. One was an employee of Leroy Merlin, a French housewares retailer whose name was on the outside of the mall.

The company has drawn controversy over plans to expand in Russia after competitors withdrew after the war. Critics have nicknamed him “Leroy Kremlin”.

In a tweet yesterday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said: “Leroy Merlin was the first company in the world to fund the bombing of its own businesses and killings [of] own employees.”

Leroy Merlin’s Ukrainian branch called on people around the world to sign an internet petition calling for their departure from Russia.

“A destroyed business is nothing compared to the lives of lost colleagues,” the company’s employees wrote. “We will always remember it.”

The rocket attack came amid continuing signs that the Russian siege of Kyiv is not proceeding as planned. Ukrainian forces yesterday claimed to have retaken a section of the Makaryv-Zhytomyr highway, west of Kyiv, a major artery in and out of the city.

Despite this latest attack, Mr Moskalenko said he had no hopes that his brother would change his mind.

When asked if he would send him footage of his destroyed apartment to prove his point, he shook his head. “I’ve already sent him a lot of photos and videos over the past few weeks,” he said. “He just says everything is fake. I gave up.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/shopping-mall-was-symbol-of-new-kyiv-now-its-a-ruined-shrine-to-the-dead-41472843.html The mall was the symbol of the new Kyiv – now it’s a ruined shrine to the dead

Fry Electronics Team

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