Ukrainians obtaining a sense of normalcy through strolling a local mall were suddenly blasted by explosives. The attacks on Ukrainian civilians continued as Russia’s missiles targeted a crowded shopping mall and entertainment center, the Amstar Mall, in Kremenchuk in Poltava, Ukraine. There were reportedly over 1,000 civilians in the shopping mall when multiple missiles hit the area.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his outrage through a Telegram message:

“Kremenchuk. The occupiers fired missiles at the shopping center, where there were more than 1,000 civilians. The shopping center is on fire, rescuers are extinguishing the fire, the number of victims is unimaginable.”

In another statement, Zelensky called the Russian missile strike “one of the most daring terrorist acts in European history” because it was a deliberate attack on a peaceful city. He also said it was something the Russians had planned since attacking civilians has been one of their known tactics in their war playbook.

“Peaceful city, ordinary shopping center, women inside, children, ordinary civilians. This is not a mistaken hit of missiles. This is a planned Russian strike at this shopping center,” Zelensky said. “Only totally insane terrorists, who should have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object,” he added.

“Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary civilians. It is useless to hope for decency and humanity on its part.”

Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated that the Russians bombed the Ukrainian shopping mall “just because it wants to kill” and “fill everything up with Ukrainian blood.” He then went on to call the Russian Federation a terrorist state which was responsible for the “most disgusting war.”

Not a War, But a Killing Spree?

Later, OSINT analysts and defense journalist Illia Ponomarenko reported that the two 2,000-pound Russian Kh-22 (X-22) missiles fired from a Tu-22M3 strategic bomber were responsible for the attack and that it came from Kursk. This missile killed at least 16 civilians, with ten more missing as of writing. Firefighters and police officers arrived at the scene as the vicinity was engulfed in hot smoke and rubble. Authorities were desperately trying to get people out of the now-bombed-out shopping mall. But, the Head of Ukraine’s Emergency Services Serhiy Kruk, unfortunately, reported that an additional 59 people were injured, with 25 being rushed to the nearest hospital.

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It is possible that the Russian forces were targeting an industrial facility used to repair tanks. However, it is impossible to verify their true intent, especially with the mounting evidence pointing to them deliberately shelling and attacking civilians throughout the four-month-old war. Furthermore, no facility would be within miles of the mall, making it impossible for it to be an accident.

Moreover, the Kh-22 is a guided munition, utilizing a gyroscope-stabilized autopilot, inertial guidance system with a terminal active radar homing.

“When they hit infrastructure or factories, we can understand that someone was given the coordinates,” Deputy Mayor of Kremenchuk Olha Usanova stated.

This comes after the Russian forces had intensified missile strikes in the region, having fired more than 65 missiles at Ukrainians throughout the weekend. Several strikes in Kharkiv had also killed five people and wounded 22.

Emergency service personnel on the scene after the Kremenchuk shopping mall missile strike (Lesia Vasylenko).
Emergency service personnel were on the scene after the Kremenchuk shopping mall missile strike (Lesia Vasylenko).

Russia’s PR on Defense

Deputy Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy turned the tables on the Ukrainians and accused them of “provoking” Russia in a similar way to Bucha, implying that the attack was staged.

“Looks like we are dealing with a new #Bucha-style #Ukrainian provocation,” Polyanskiy said. “One should wait for what our Ministry of Defence will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already. Exactly what Kiev regime needs to keep focus of attention on #Ukraine before #NATOSummit.”

In a joint statement, the leaders of the G7 expressed their dismay and collectively condemned the attack on the shopping mall, noting that the act was a “war crime.”

“We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack. Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime. Russian president Putin and those responsible will be held to account. Today, we underlined our unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian aggression, an unjustified war of choice that has been raging for 124 days.

Russian attacks on civilian populations are not uncommon. For example, it has been widely agreed upon that Russia deliberately shelled civilians during their siege of the southern port city of Mariupol, bombing a Mariupol Drama Theater serving as an evacuation shelter for civilians. Furthermore, it has also bombed several hospitals in the city, killing those trying to evacuate through an established humanitarian corridor. Russia is currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court because of these alleged instances of war crimes and crimes against humanity.