On June 27, 2022, missiles struck the Amstor shopping mall in the Ukrainian town of Kremenchuk [Kremenchug], inflicting mass casualties. Ukraine blamed Russia for the deliberate attack on civilians. Condemnation of the Russian action poured in from many quarters. At their annual summit taking place this year in Bavaria, the leaders of the G-7 condemned Russia's "abominable" missile attack on the shopping mall.
In a joint statement issued by the leaders they claimed:"We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack." They added: "Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians contribute to a war crime," they added. "Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account." 
Pope Francis told crowds assembled in St. Peter's Square in Rome "Every day, I carry in my heart dear and martyred Ukraine, which continues to be flagellated by barbarous attacks like the one that hit the shopping center in Kremenchuk."
Speaking at the end of the G-7 summit in Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron, hitherto considered to be waivering regarding long-term support for Ukraine, now vowed that the seven leading industrialized democracies would support Ukraine and maintain sanctions against Russia "as long as necessary, and with the necessary intensity..."Russia cannot and should not win." Macron joined those calling the missile strike "a new war crime".
Russia responded to the firestorm ponderously. The blogger Anatoly Nesiman a.k.a. El-Murid "Putin is in the same position now [as Osama bin Laden]. His statement is no longer of interest to anyone, the fact is declared. In a sense, this is a chronic problem of all dictatorships - a constant delay in any reaction. As long as what happened is brought to the attention of the chief, as long as the chief thinks it over, decides and then it will go through the entire vertical, a new crisis will happen, a new crisis will strike.
Putin's belated response was also influenced by the fact that he was away on a summit of the Caspian littoral states. The Russian President's statement was also a reminder that any Russian response had an immovable point of departure namely that Russia does not do war crimes.
Putin stressed that the Russian army does not strike at civilian targets. "No one shoots in the fields just like that...As a rule, this [firing] is performed based on the results of reconnoitered targets. And in this case, the same is true of Kremenchug." Russia has steadfastly maintained that it only strikes at military targets, as opposed to the barbaric Americans in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, Russian reactions had to provide alternative even contradictory explanations for the missile attacks on the Amstor mall.
The following report explores Russian reactions to the missile attack on Kremenchuk:
Amstor Mall in Kremenchuk following the missile strike (Source: News.ru)
The Russian media relying heavily on the social media was the first to respond to the Ukrainian charges.
Tsargrad.Tv: A Rerun Of Bucha Libel Against Russia
The conservative outlet Tsagrad ran a report citing and then debunking the Ukrainian version. The thrust of the article claims that Ukraine, as on previous occasions, such as during the fighting in the suburbs of Kyiv was try to besmirch Russia.
"There are no official data yet, but eyewitness videos already show that the Ukrainian version doesn’t reflect the true state of affairs. First, the footage of the burning mall, depicts a lot of people dressed in military uniform, which is quite suspicious for a 'peaceful facility.' Second, there are practically no cars in the parking lot next to the mall, which casts doubt on the report of a large number of civilians inside the building.
“I’m 100% sure that this was a provocation, just in time for the G7 and the US statements regarding air defense supplies,” wrote blogger Sergey Kolyasnikov at his Telegram channel.
"Military correspondent Andrei Rudenko came to the same conclusion upon scrutinizing a video depicting the scene of the incident. In turn, military columnist Boris Rozhin noted that by these actions Kiev is trying to repeat the Bucha provocation in Kremenchuk.
"'One cannot rule out the possibility of some sort of staged events in the spirit of Bucha and Kramatorsk in order to support negotiations, during which Ukraine begs the West for new [supplies] of surface to air missiles'.
"'Even before the story of Kramatorsk and Bucha, the Ukrainian side had accused Russia of shelling the shopping mall in Kyiv. However, back then the lie was quickly exposed, by the residents of the Ukrainian capital themselves. The video showed Ukrainian military equipment hidden in a "peaceful" shopping mall. After that incident, the Ukrainian authorities prohibited the filming of the sites of missile strikes on photos and videos."
Boris Rozhin (Source: Fedpress.ru)
According to Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Dmitry Polyansky, the explosion that occurred at the Amstor shopping center in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk could be a provocation in the style of the Bucha case.
“It looks like we are dealing with a new Ukrainian provocation made in the style of Bucha [case]. We have to sit tight and see what our Defense Ministry has to say, but there are already too many glaring inconsistencies. This is exactly what the Kyiv regime needs in order to keep the focus on Ukraine before the NATO summit,” Polyansky wrote on his Twitter account. 
Dmitry Polyansky Vesti.ru
The Ukrainians Did It Themselves to Secure Sympathy At The G7 and NATO Summits
As Russia had blamed Ukraine upon previous reports of atrocities, it was natural that the policy would be repeated with Kremenchug, and the Russian version of previous cases was cited as proof that this reality also obtained in Kremenchug. Military expert Mikhail Onufrienko wrote: "So far, the situation in Kremenchuk looks more like a provocation by the ZSU [Armed Forces of Ukraine]. After all, it wasn’t the first time. In March, the ZSU attacked the center of Donetsk with a “Tochka-U” missile [OTR-21 Tochka]. Back then Ukraine groundlessly blamed Russia. This fake was quickly debunked due to media becoming aware of the missile number. Similar cases were recorded in Bucha, Kramatorsk and Kyiv. By such actions a correct picture in media is being created.
“Generally speaking, the scheme always looks the same: the ZSU either strikes civilians on purpose, or a strike occurs as a result of their unprofessional actions. After that the Ukrainian authorities blame Russia for this. Later their position is propagated by the Western media, after which NATO member-states either introduce a new package of anti-Russian sanctions, or report a new package of military assistance for the ZSU. It’s interesting to note that the strike on the Amstor shopping center located in the city Kremenchuk occurred against the background of the G7 summit and the upcoming NATO summit," noted Onufrienko.
Onufrienko reminded his readers that back in March, there was also a reported case of a missile strike on the Retroville shopping mall in Kyiv. The Kiev mall housed an ammunition warehouse.
Onufrienko also argued that the timing of the attack precluded a Russian strike. "As a rule of thumb, targets deployed for military purposes are attacked at night in order to minimize civilian casualties. Thus, when something like this occurs in a daytime, it looks more like another provocation by Ukraine," explained the military analyst, who recommended awaiting official statements on the incident. Onufrienko however cited the prompt appearance at the site of the explosions by Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, as corroboration that the Ukrainians had a hand in the incident.
The incident would be exploited due to the symbiotic relationship between the Ukrainian leadership and the Western media:
"Additionally, the events developing at the fronts is of secondary importance for the Ukrainian leadership. A creation of 'information noise', which bears no relation to reality takes first place. Ukrainian troops may suffer defeats, retreat, but the Western media will present this as a 'tactical retreat.' The same is true for any dubious shelling, as given the upcoming NATO summit, the Ukrainian authorities and Western media will sell it as 'Russian aggression,' and after a while they will forget about this story,” concluded Onufrienko.
Mikhail Onufrienko (Source: Nakanune.ru)
The Mall's Destruction Was Collateral Damage, Or An Attack On A Bona Fide Military Target
On the social media, the pro-Russian narrative noted the presence of the Kredmash plant located right behind Amstor. The Rybar Telegram channel concluded "Judging by the destruction of walls and poles, the explosion per se occurred somewhere behind the Amstor building. From there the fire spread to the mall itself.
Bloggers also pointed to a number of anomalies. For instance, on the video depicting the fire near the mall, only men appear in the frame. “Apparently, women don’t visit shopping malls. Whereas, people dressed in military uniform are visible,” said journalist Ruslan Ostashko. In addition, an empty parking lot can be observed near the mall.
Journalist Andrei Medvedev poked fun at the Ukrainian version "Missiles struck a shopping mall in the city of Kremenchug, and Zelensky claimed that a thousand civilians came under fire. But the video from Kremenchug paints a somewhat different picture. There are a lot of people with guns. The video shows almost exclusively men, tough-looking guys, mind you. Some of them have tattoos halfway down their bodies. What were they selling in the shopping center and what do these peaceful men do? Perhaps, they were all hiding from mobilization in the children’s toys section and took plastic machine guns when running away."
Russia's First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky also argued that the incident resembled the provocation perpetrated by Ukraine in the town of Bucha. “We need to wait for a statement from our Ministry of Defense. However, there are already too many glaring inconsistencies. This exactly what the Kyiv regime needs in order to keep a spotlight on Ukraine before the NATO summit."
Life.ru, cited the "War on Fakes" Telegram channel to argue that mall was next to a Ukrainian military facility or functioned as one itself. "Amstor” is located a few tens of meters away from the workshops of the “Kremenchuk Plant of Road Machines” [hereafter - “Kredmash”], which has been repairing equipment for the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2014... according to some reports, the shopping mall was used as a warehouse for military equipment, just like the “Retroville” shopping mall located in Kyiv."
The outlet disputed Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky's claim of mass casualties due to the attack: "There were allegedly about a thousand civilians in the mall at the time of the missile strike, but the parking lot in front of the mall was practically empty, and many military personnel dressed in “pixelated" uniform (regular ZSU shirts and camouflage bags) with machine guns were observed in the area."
"The fact that the mall has not been operational for a long time is also confirmed by the fact that geotag search in social networks provides no photos of visitors since March, as well as no reviews on websites or maps. According to analysts, military equipment repaired at Dormash [meaning Kredmash] was stored in the shopping mall. We don’t rule out the possibility that the fake news about 'civilians killed during the shelling' is yet another provocation by Kyiv, as the NATO summit will be held in the next few days. Zelensky plans to ask for a new 'batch' of military aid during it."
Kredmash factory building in Kremenchuk (Source: Uk.Wikipedia.org)
The Official Defense Ministry Version Emerges– It Was Collateral Damage
By June 28, 2022, the Russian Defense Ministry published its official version of the incident. Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov announced that a high-precision weapon had hit an ammunition depot from the United States and Europe, located in the area of the Kremenchug plant of road vehicles, and that the subsequent explosion had caused a fire in a nearby shopping center:
"On June 27, in the city of Kremenchug, Poltava region, the Russian Aerospace Forces delivered a strike with high-precision air-based weapons on hangars with weapons and ammunition received from the United States and European countries, in the area of the Kremenchug plant of road vehicles."
"The detonation of stored ammunition for Western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping center located next to the plant," Konashenkov added.
Russian officials adopted the explanation and Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov refused further comment on the incident referring reporters to the "exhaustive" Defense Ministry explanation.
“I don’t have a comment. There was an exhaustive comment and explanation from the Ministry of Defense, where this version (of the Ukrainian side that the strike was inflicted on a shopping center - IF) is completely rejected, and exhaustive explanations are given of what happened, on which target a blow was delivered."
When confronted with the Ukrainian version, Peskov brushed it aside: "I propose to focus precisely on the clarification of our Ministry of Defense."
The next day (June 29, 2022) Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused the Ukrainian government of a provocation and the West of aiding and abetting the provocation by arms deliveries to Ukraine:
"Another outrageous provocation was the Zelensky regime’s attempts to accuse the Russian Armed Forces of striking a shopping center in Kremenchug on June 27. According to Kiev, about a thousand civilians were in the mall at the time. Unfortunately, all these fake reports have multiplied and spread. According to the Kiev regime, there was a fire in the center and some people were killed and wounded.
I’d like to draw your attention to the materials submitted by the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation. Our foreign offices have also supported these materials at international organizations. They show that the shops of the Kremenchug Road Machine Plant – Kredmash Defense Plant – are located several dozen meters away from this shopping center. These shops stored weapons and ammunition that were sent by the US and EU countries for use by Ukrainian Armed Forces units in Donbass.
Maybe the Western public should ask their governments why they delivered and stored weapons in the direct vicinity of a shopping center? This question hasn’t occurred to you, has it? Nobody thought of this – not Western correspondents, nor Western NGOs, nor the humanitarians that are so concerned about the situation in Ukraine. Why are the Western countries supplying Ukraine with weapons that are stored in direct proximity to densely populated civilian infrastructure? This is done deliberately. This is exactly what we call hiding behind civilians. They are used as shields and have become hostages to geopolitical interests. Russian Aerospace Forces’ precision strikes destroyed the plant’s shops, not the shopping center or the civilians.
Contradictory Claims Persist
Tsargrad.tv, citing the Troika Telegram channel claimed that an unidentified female resident of Kremenchug took the city's mayor Vitaly Maltetsky to task for not preventing the siting of a strategic target right behind the shopping center.
"The moment when the siren was buzzing, the shopping center was open and accessible to everyone." Those who perished were therefore victims of the Ukrainian regime's callousness for failing to inform them that they were shopping right next to a military target.
However, deputy representative Polyansky continued to insist that there were no mass casualties as the mall had sustained no tangible damage: "A missile hit on the shopping center would have left nothing of it [remaining]. But even the goods inside the shopping center were not affected by the blast." Polyansky noted.
It is doubtful that Russia expected to convince foreign opinion as the site was open to verification. Kredmash, for example, is located half a kilometer from the shopping center and there was no evidence of a fire spreading over that distance. Receipts from the mall showed that it had been open for normal activity etc. It did probably succeed in muddying the waters and convincing the Russian domestic audience that charges of Russian atrocities were fake news.
 Reuters.com, June 27, 2022.
 Canberratimes.com, June 29, 2022.
 Indianexpress.com June 28, 2022.
 Elmurid.livejournal.com, June 28, 2022.
 Tsargrad.tv, June 27, 2022.
 Ura.ru, June 27, 2022.
 Vz.ru, June 27, 2022.
 Vz.ru, June 27, 2022.
 Life.ru, June 27, 2022.
 Interfax.ru, June 28, 2022.
 Mid.ru, June 29, 2022.
 Tsargrad.tv, June 30, 2022.
 News.ru, June 29, 2022.
 Guardian.co.uk, June 29, 2022; Bbc.com, January 29, 2022.