Russia’s ambassador to the UK has described the Ukrainians who died in Moscow’s missile attack on a packed shopping centre as “collateral damage”.
The strike, which killed 18 people in the central city of Kremenchuk on Monday, caused shock around the world and was denounced by Ukrainian leaders as a war crime and terrorist attack.
Ambassador Andrei Kelin echoed Russian authorities’ claim that the shopping centre was not the target.
He told Channel 4 News: “As was stated by the (Russia) Ministry of Defence, we were targeting only military infrastructure.
“And that was the case because the attack was launched against a factory on the territory of which a large amount of weapons, that has come from the United States and Europe, and that was the aim of the attack.
“Unfortunately, a detonation happened and the fire has spread on the nearby shopping mall, but this shopping mall has been empty and it doesn’t work since March of this year.”
He claimed there was “no crowd” in the shopping centre, but acknowledged “some people probably” died in the area.
“Yes, it’s a tragic event. Unfortunately, collateral damage happens,” he said.
The strike came as Russia stepped up its barrage of fire across Ukraine, including in the capital Kyiv.
Boris Johnson and fellow G7 leaders condemned Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and the attack in Kremenchuk as the summit in Germany drew to a close.
The Prime Minister said it was an act of “utter barbarism”.
“People are just shocked by what Putin is capable of doing,” he said.
Mr Kelin also blamed the supply of weapons from Western nations to Kyiv for escalating the war.
He added: “Yes, I am very much worried about where it will end. But most of all, I am worried about those appeals to continue the conflict… sending more and more weapons which are of higher and higher quality, like international weapons, like modern rockets weapons.
“It is increasing the depths of conflict. It is escalation and it is very bad for Ukraine itself.”
He denied that Russia could widen its targets westwards.