In the ruins of Retroville: an explosion tears the mall to shreds as war draws closer to kyiv | Ukraine
The six corpses are lined up under an awning covered with advertising logos. Their bare feet stick out from a black plastic floor mat.
Two of the bodies are stained with blood-covered dirt, horribly twisted and half-naked, a sign that the victims were taken in their sleep.
On Sunday evening, the brand new Retroville shopping center, located on the northwestern outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, kyiv, was hit by a Russian airstrike. At least eight people died, according to the first official report.
The attack, most likely a missile strike, tore through the southern part of the sprawling mall around 10:45 p.m., rocking the entire city.
“I was just minding my business at home,” said local resident Vladimir. “My apartment shook from the force of the explosion. I thought the building was going to collapse,” he recalls.
Opened in early 2020, just before Covid hit, the Retroville was the pride of the locals – a temple of commercial therapy with 250 shops, Western brands, a multiplex cinema and 3,000 parking spaces.
This area of suburban Vinogradar was once made up of market gardens and vineyards. Now ultra-modern gray towers have sprung up everywhere. Some are still vacant. Others aren’t even finished yet.
Around the destroyed mall, barely a single storefront survived the blast. Shards of broken glass litter the cobblestones at the foot of 20-story buildings.
The parking lot on the south side of the mall is a wreck of mangled cars, twisted metal and treacherously sharp debris.
The Sportlife fitness center and pool, built in the parking lot, have been reduced to a tangle of steel and grimy puddles. Pieces of polystyrene insulation, disfigured by the fire, float in the murky water.
A handful of firefighters and soldiers scour the smoldering rubble of a 10-story building in search of other victims.
“It was there that the offices of the shopping center were”, explains a resident, pointing to the concrete shell of the building. “Fortunately there was no one inside at the time.”
Everyone who studies the desolate scene agrees that the Retroville attack is the strongest to hit kyiv since the Russian invasion began.
Inside the devastated mall, the once shiny floor is flooded with water from burst pipes and the ventilated ceiling hangs in pieces from its frame. From the bowels of the complex, a security alarm is still ringing inside a western hardware store.
An Orthodox priest in a khaki cassock tries to make his way through the rubble, muttering prayers and insults to “Russian terrorists”. A soldier with a black scarf over his face approaches. “There are body parts over there,” he whispers to the priest.
Constantin, 22, was there when the explosion happened.
“It blew everything up. I don’t know if it was a missile or a massive rocket. He landed directly on the gym.
The six bodies lying under the plastic floor mat are all dressed in military fatigues. They could have been soldiers catching up on some sleep.
The remains of a huge engine block nearby, surrounded by jagged tank chassis plates, lend credence to this theory.
As Russian forces advance and tighten their grip on kyiv, it has become almost common to come across camouflaged vehicles, military equipment and anti-aircraft guns hidden in underground public parking lots.
The locals recognize that the Ukrainian army uses their region as a base. Russian troops are only a few kilometers (miles) from Irpin, which they have turned upside down, and the inhabitants woke up this Monday morning to the sound of cannon fire.
Then the howl of the sirens resounded in the capital.
“It’s the biggest bomb to hit the city so far,” says Dima Stepanienko. The 30-year-old says he was “thrown out of bed” by the explosion that destroyed the Retroville. “I’m scared,” he said, looking away.