He claimed that more than 1,000 people were in the shopping centre at the time of the attack. He gave no immediate details of casualties but said: “It is impossible to even imagine the number of victims.”
Social media footage showed caused a huge fire and dark smoke billowing from the mall. Firefighters and soldiers were pulling out mangled pieces of metal as they searched for survivors.
“We don’t understand how many people could be remaining under the rubble,” the regional rescue service chief said on television.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of president Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said nine of the wounded were in a serious condition following the missile strike on Kremenchuk, a major industrial city in central Ukraine.
“It’s useless to hope for decency and humanity from Russia,” Mr Zelensky wrote on Telegram. City mayor Vitaliy Meletskiy said the strike had caused deaths and injuries, but gave no figures.
An adviser to president Zelensky said Russia hit the shopping centre “just because it wants to kill”.
“Kremenchuk right now… Russia deliberately hit shopping centre, with more than thousand civilians inside. In the middle of the day. Just because it wants to kill. To fill everything up with Ukrainian blood. RF – a terrorist state. RF – the most disgusting war,” Mykhailo Podolyak said accompanied with a video of the shopping centre on fire.
Mr Zelensky provided an update on Telegram. He said: [The shopping centre] is on fire, and rescue workers are trying to put out the fire, the number of victims is impossible to imagine.
“It posed no threat to the Russian army. No strategic value. People only wanted to live a normal life, which is what angers the occupiers so much.
“Out of helplessness, Russia continues to hit ordinary people. It is vain to expect it to be reasonable or humane.”
Kremenchuk, an industrial city of 217,000 before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, lies on the Dnipro river in the region of Poltava and is the site of Ukraine’s biggest oil refinery.
There was no immediate comment from Russia, which denies deliberately targeting civilians.
Vadym Denysenko, an interior ministry adviser, said Russia could have had three motives for the attack.
“The first, undoubtedly, is to sow panic, the second is to… destroy our infrastructure, and the third is to… raise the stakes to get the civilised West to sit down again at the table for talks,” he said.
Russia, which captured Ukraine’s eastern frontline city of Sievierodonetsk over the weekend after a weeks-long assault, has stepped up missile strikes on targets across Ukraine in recent days.