KREMENCHUK – In Nikolaii Mikhajlets’ eyes there is all the horror in the world. He has his head twisted up with thread like a stitched balloon, shirtless in the neurosurgery ward of Kremenchuk Hospital. He has the thermometer under his arm because he has “a little fever”, a sutured ankle because “something took a piece of meat away from me. But it is in here that I feel bad », he waves his hand near his head:« I have not yet understood how – he says – and I have not yet understood why Liudmila and I are still alive ».
Twenty-five hours ago, at 3.30pm on Monday, he was with his wife in the Amstor shopping mall gutted by a Russian missile. Anton Stoletnii, the chief prosecutor of the Poltava region, of which Kremenchuk is a member, ascertained yesterday evening «the death of 19 people; and there are 101 wounded, 54 of whom are hospitalized, and 28 are missing ”. There are certainly no other survivors.
The mall shed is a stinking stump of sheet metal crumpled on a mass of debris. There is nothing left standing. There were ten thousand square meters of shops crammed with merchandise, a supermarket and the electronics maxistore. There were costume jewelery, clothing and services, the bar and families walking with their children by the hand. Now there is only a carpet of steaming debris like in an organic waste landfill.
Liudmila and Nikolaii had «just entered Comfy – the household appliance maxistore – because Liudmila wanted a new blender: we went to have a look at the prices. Suddenly there was a huge bang and I passed out. When I found I only remember the smoke, the screams, the flames so high but not everywhere, in flashes. I was full of things on me, I freed myself and only then did I understand where I was, what had happened. I started looking for Liudmila: she was two meters from me, she was screaming desperately covered in pipes and sheets. I tried to get her out of her but she was stuck. I took a tube, I levered … she had an arm broken in three places, her bone was sticking out of her skin. Around us we had corpses and mutilated bodies, and there were people lying down screaming. I took Liudmila to take her out, and next to her was a little girl in a yellow dress and a head full of blood everywhere. I took it with one hand, with the other arm I supported my wife that every three steps she collapsed unconscious. I was looking for an escape route in the flames, in the smoke. At the exit a boy appeared: “I can’t do it, help me, there is this little girl … I don’t know what to do”, I told him. “Go ahead with your wife, I’ll take care of it” ».
Ukraine, Russian missile hits a shopping center in Kremenchuk: it’s a hell of fire and smoke
by our correspondent Paolo Brera
Liudmila is hospitalized in another room, she is better “but she is all blue, she is full of bruises and they are waiting for her to recover to reduce the fracture.” Nikolaii, on the other hand, rolls his big blue eyes on his hospital bed and thinks: «I am destroyed by anxiety. I hear that roar that almost took my hearing out for a while. I can not sleep. I think of when I woke up down there, of my life that passed me while I was trying to get up; to the clear feeling that without Liudmila it would have made no sense to survive ». She told him that the roar that made him faint “raised her and made her fly a few meters, and while she flew it hit her with everything.” She doesn’t understand, she says. They don’t understand why they’re not dead too, down there.
While squads of firefighters and forensic technicians dig for other remains, the Russian Defense Ministry defends itself against allegations of “state terrorism” and a “deliberate attack on civilians” by claiming that “a precision missile hit a depot where they were stockpiled weapons sent by the US and Europe, causing a fire that spread to the nearby shopping center, which was closed ». It was closed, he says.
The pieces of the “precision missile” found so far are collected on a table in front of the shopping center. “They hit this area with two missiles – says the chief prosecutor Stoletnii – the first of which hit a factory behind the shopping center: for years it had only produced cement and civil machinery, and from 24 February it was no longer operational except in ranks extremely reduced “. The Russians argue that the remaining activity was the storage of weapons.
“After several seconds – continues the prosecutor – another missile landed on the shopping center in that corner there,” he says, pointing his finger towards the corner on the right, the rear one farthest from the entrance and closer to the factory sheds. It is the only part that still has partial roof coverage. For security reasons they won’t let us in to see the crater.
Whatever the purpose of the raid, and whatever the dynamics of it, there was a horrific slaughter in the mall. And there is no doubt about the responsibilities: the missile that caused the disaster was fired by a Russian fighter-bomber in the skies of Kursk, Russia. Tatjana, receptionist of the hotel opposite the shopping center, heard two explosions. “The first was the strongest. We all fell to the ground, the windows collapsed, we hid under the counter ». Oxana Kusaka, employed in an office located in the hotel, says that “everything was shaking, I got out and fragments rained everywhere, there was very black smoke and a great fire”. You have heard of explosions “only one”. But she was enough.