Ukrainian officials on Thursday said dozens of civilians were killed after a Russian strike hit a grocery store in the Kharkiv region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the incident as a demonstrably brutal Russian crime and a terrorist attack on an ordinary grocery store. He said 48 people were killed, but Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko later updated the death toll to at least 51, including a child.
Oleh Synehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, said a café and grocery shop were struck by Russian forces in the village of Hroza, which is in Kharkiv’s Kupyansk district. The attack reportedly involved a missile or shells and occurred at about 1:15 p.m. local time.
The strike is believed to be the deadliest Russian attack on Ukrainian civilians since an early 2022 strike in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. In that incident, at least 50 people were killed after Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s forces struck a railway station.
“My condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones! Help is being provided to the wounded,” Zelensky said on his Telegram account Thursday. “Russian terror must be stopped. Anyone who helps Russia circumvent sanctions is a criminal.”
Klymenko told local media that someone from each family was at the scene of the attack in Hroza, which is home to about 330 people.
“There may still be people under the rubble of the destroyed shop and café, so rescuers, police and local residents continue to sort through the debris,” Klymenko added in a Telegram message.
Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, a U.S.-born spokesperson of the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU), called Russia a “death cult” in a statement.
“This attack proves yet again that because of the Kremlin’s failures on the battlefield they choose to resort to terrorism and genocide against the civilian population of Ukraine,” Ashton-Cirillo told Newsweek. “This attack is yet more proof why every war criminal from the Moscow regime must face consequences for their crimes against humanity.”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense via email for comment.
Images and video quickly circulated on social media of emergency personnel working through the rubble at the scene, while other more graphic images showed bodies of victims on the ground.
Along with condemnation from various Kyiv officials, the attack has been denounced by international figures.
“I hope every single ‘antiwar’ appeaser who thinks Ukraine should ‘make a deal’ with Russia sees the photos of this brutal and militarily pointless attack on a grocery store,” conspiracy theory expert/author Mike Rothschild wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “What ‘deal’ can be made with killers of children?”
Andrew Mercado, a U.S. Army veteran and independent journalist, wrote on X that “these Ukrainian civilians were out at the grocery store when Russia sent missiles and decided they were a legitimate military target.”
“The pro-Ukraine alliance should increase sanctions on Russia. Also put pressure on ‘neutrals’ to condemn. Remove Russia from the UN human rights executive,” Dr. Richard Simpson, an honorary professor at Scotland’s University of Stirling and an Order of the British Empire recipient, posted on X.
Update 10/5/23, 12:10 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and comment.