President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky met with Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson traveled to Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and see some of the devastation caused by Vladimir Putin’s “terrible invasion”.

At the invitation of the Ukrainian leader, the entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group met on Wednesday with Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and a group of Ukrainian business leaders.

Sir Richard said the purpose of the meeting was “to learn what business, in partnership with civil society and governments, can do to best support Ukraine.”


President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting with Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv on Wednesday (Press Office of the President of Ukraine/AP)

After visiting a residential area with a destroyed kindergarten that was recently hit by a Russian missile attack, Sir Richard traveled to Gostomel Airport to see the remains of the Antonov An-225, the world’s largest transport aircraft, known as the Mriya (Mechta).

Sir Richard said: “It is clear that these types of attacks are not unintentional and arbitrary. They are part of a deliberate strategy to spread fear and terror among the civilian population of Ukraine.

“I hope that the Russians responsible for these shocking acts will be brought to justice.”

The Virgin founder called a visit to the war-torn country “a humiliating and emotional experience.”


A local resident collects photographs of his family left under the rubble of Russian shelling in Nikolaev, Ukraine. (Giorgiy Ivanchenko/AP)

“I remember Kyiv very well from previous visits in 2014 and 2015. This is a beautiful capital with a stunning historical city built along the banks of the majestic Dnieper,” he added.

“But the scars of war are inevitable in this sprawling city, especially in the burnt-out housing blocks hit by indiscriminate Russian airstrikes and rocket attacks.”

In a statement from Zelenskiy’s office about Sir Richard’s visit, the president said the couple had discussed keeping “the world’s attention on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

“The billionaire noted that he constantly supports our state, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the imposition of the toughest sanctions against Russia and those who support and finance the war,” the message says.


People watch as smoke billows from a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping center in Kremenchuk. (Vyacheslav Pryadko/AP)

Meanwhile, in the country’s long-contested eastern province, Russia continued to shell Ukraine’s last stronghold.

The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Russian troops are “gradually advancing” in their offensive to capture Lysychansk, the last city in the Luhansk region under Ukrainian control after Ukrainian troops retreated from the nearby town of Severodonetsk.

Crews also continued to search the rubble of a shopping center in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, where authorities say 20 people have gone missing following a Russian airstrike that killed at least 18 people two days earlier.


Firefighters of the State Emergency Service sort out garbage in a shopping center. (Ephraim Lukatsky/AP)

Svetlana Rybalko, spokeswoman for the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, told The Associated Press that in addition to the 18 dead, investigators found fragments of eight more bodies.

It was not immediately clear whether this meant that there were more casualties. Several survivors had their limbs torn off.

The defense ministry said there was a “real possibility” that the strike on the mall “was aimed at striking nearby infrastructure.”


Twenty people are listed as missing after a Russian airstrike on a shopping center in Kremenchuk killed at least 18 people. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

“Russian planners are likely still willing to accept a high level of collateral damage when they see a military need to strike a target,” the ministry said.

“It is almost certain that Russia will continue to strike in an attempt to prevent the resupply of Ukrainian forward forces.”

The Russian military is also experiencing a shortage of more modern precision-guided strike weapons, exacerbating civilian casualties, the defense ministry said.

Kremlin troops and their separatist allies control 95% of Luhansk Oblast and about half of Donetsk Oblast, two regions that make up the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas.