Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky met with Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv.

At the invitation of the Ukrainian leader, the businessman and founder of the Virgin Group met on Wednesday with Mr. Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmitry Koliba and a group of Ukrainian business leaders.

Sir Richard said the purpose of the meeting was to “find out what can be done in partnership with civil society and governments to effectively support Ukraine.”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky during a meeting with Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv on Wednesday (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office / AP) / PA Media

After visiting a dilapidated kindergarten residential area that was recently hit by a Russian missile, Sir Richard traveled to Gostommel Airport to see the remains of the world’s largest transport plane, the Antonov AN-225. Known as Maria (Dream).

Sir Richard said: “It is clear that such attacks are unintentional and arbitrary. They are part of a deliberate strategy to spread fear and terror among Ukraine’s civilian population.

“I hope that the Russian perpetrators of these shocking acts will be held accountable.”

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

Mikolaev, a local resident, collects photos of his family left under rubble after Russian shelling in Ukraine (George Ivanchenko / AP) / AP

“I remember Kyiv well from previous visits in 2014 and 2015. It is a beautiful capital, with a view of a magnificent historic city built on the shores of the magnificent Dnieper,” he added.

“But signs of war are inevitable in this vast city, especially in the burning shells of residential buildings affected by Russian airstrikes and missile strikes.”

In a statement from Mr Zelensky’s office on Sir Richard’s visit, the president said the couple discussed “maintaining the world’s attention to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

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

People see clouds of smoke after a Russian missile attack on a crowded shopping mall in Kremenchok (Vyacheslav Priyadko / AP) / AP

Meanwhile, in the country’s long-fought eastern province, Russia continues to bomb Ukraine’s last stronghold.

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Russian forces were “increasingly advancing” in their operation to seize the last city in the Ukrainian-controlled province of Luhansk, Lysichansk, after Ukrainian forces retreated from the neighboring city of Sevrodontsk. Have been

Staff also searched for the wreckage of a shopping mall in central Ukraine’s Kremenchok, where officials say 20 people are missing after a Russian airstrike killed at least 18 people two days ago.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service firefighters work to remove debris from a shopping center (Efrem Lukatsky / AP) / AP

Svetlana Rybalko, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s state emergency services, told the Associated Press that investigators had found eight more bodies, along with 18 others.

It was not immediately clear if this meant more victims. Many survivors had their limbs amputated.

The MoD said there was a “realistic possibility” that the strike was aimed at “targeting nearby infrastructure”.

Twenty people are missing after a Russian airstrike on a Kremlin shopping center killed at least 18 people (Efrem Lukatsky / AP) / AP

“Russian planners are prepared to accept potential high-level damage when they understand the military need to hit a target,” the ministry said.

“It is almost certain that Russia will continue its attacks in an attempt to stop the resumption of supplies to Ukraine’s frontline forces.”

Russia’s military is facing a shortage of more sophisticated strike weapons, which is increasing civilian casualties, the MOD said.

Kremlin forces and their separatist allies occupy 95 percent of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk, two provinces mostly composed of Russian-speaking Donbass.