Empty mall parking lot and existence of a munitions plant nearby raise questions about official narrative advanced in mainstream U.S. media
On Tuesday June 28, mainstream media outlets reported that at least 18 people were killed and dozens injured in a Russian missile strike on a “crowded shopping mall” in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Monday.
Thirty-six other people were said to be missing and a survivor was on record saying that she had been shopping with her husband when the blast threw her into the air.
The Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, NPR and other news outlets reporting on the story used Ukrainian government officials as their primary source, notably Mayor Vitaliy Maletskiy—who wrote on Facebook that the attack “hit a very crowded area, which is 100% certain not to have any links to the armed forces.”
But they made no independent investigation as to the truth of the self-serving statement. Also without verification they quoted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—who said in a Telegram post that the number of victims was “unimaginable,” and cited reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack.
However, other reports contradict Zelensky and suggest that the Russian missile attack in Kremenchuk is just one more false story about alleged Russian atrocities known to have been fabricated by Ukraine’s very active propaganda mill.
For example, there are reports that the mall—which Zelensky claims was filled with 1,000 civilian shoppers—had actually been closed for months. Zelensky himself claimed that the mall had been evacuated after air sirens went off earlier in the day—contradicting his own claims about 1,000 civilians being inside.
This seems credible because there were virtually no cars in the mall parking lot during the attack, let alone enough cars for 1,000 shoppers. And according to satellite imagery, adjacent to the mall was a machine plant that manufactured weapons.
This plant, Russia said, was the target of a legitimate military strike, which resulted in a fire in the adjacent mall that had been closed to business since the war began in February.
First Casualty of War is Truth
The crucial Russian counterclaim was not reported by most news media outlets, including alternative media. The Ukrainian commissioner for human rights, Lyudmila Denisova, was recently fired by parliament in part because she was fabricating and feeding false reports of Russian atrocities to Western news media.
This looks potentially to be another case of that. Since the war began, a large percentage of the torture, mutilation, rape and mass killings featured daily in Western media have been committed by Ukrainian forces–sometimes out of mere brutality, as revealed by their own videos that they have posted online–but also as “false flag” events blamed on Russia to inflame world anger and encourage the West to send Ukraine more money and armaments.
Most prominently implicated in multiple war crimes is Ukraine’s notorious Azov Battalion, which boasts of its love for Hitler and has been committing torture, mutilation, rape and mass murders of Russian-speaking Ukrainian women and children in the Donbas region since 2014.
RT News Report
An RT News report featured Ukrainian government videos from the scene of the missile attack—videos which correlated with photographs featured on NPR’s website and those of other media outlets—that showed dozens of men, many in military uniforms, running in the mostly empty parking lot outside the burning building as black smoke rose into the sky.
The people running curiously did not seem to be running out of the building but next to it.
The article raised the legitimate question about why there were so few cars in the parking lot if 1,000 people were really inside the mall as Zelensky claimed.
It also referenced the factory next to the mall and a railway junction that was often a target of Russian missile strikes.
“Just Scrutinize the Facts”
Moon of Alabama’s June 28th political blog provided a link to satellite imagery confirming that the shopping mall in Kremanchuk was next to a large machine plant, which Moon said manufactured armaments that were being delivered to Ukrainian troops in Donbass.
After noting the Russian Defense Ministry’s claims, Moon wrote: “Ahhh—‘don’t trust the Russians!’ you say. Well, don’t trust anyone I say, just scrutinize the facts.”
Moon goes on to report about the empty parking lot and fact that only 16 people died and 25 were injured–meaning that over 900 survived unscathed. The video showed at most several dozen people in the parking lot, raising questions as to where all the survivors went.
The Ukrainian government published surveillance video from a park located next to the machine plant which caught the moments of the two explosions, Moon notes.
A large flash appeared and people began running away as some debris—coming obviously from the machine plant after it was struck—fell down.
Moon concluded that: “the shopping center was obviously as empty as its large empty parking space…It somehow came on fire after the factory next door was bombed. Those who died were most likely soldiers or factory workers who were preparing ‘western’ weapons for delivery to the front.”
More Evidence to Cast Doubt
In response to Moon’s column, one reader wrote:
“People with far more commonsense than me posed a simple question: if it is a shopping mall then like all shopping malls around the world, there will be shoppers who will post—for good or for ill—their opinions of how good or bad their experience was. So they went out and looked and, sure enough, you can find online rating on a zero-to-five star scale for that shopping centre. All of those reviews—all of them—ceased at the end of February of this year i.e. when Russia launched its special military operation. The reasonable conclusion is that the moment this war began, that shopping mall was closed and its floor space turned over to the use of the Kredmash machine plant. 1,000 shoppers were inside that building? Bullsh**t.”
Google reviews of the Amstor mall in Kremanchuk confirm what the reader was saying in that the reviews end four months ago when the war started and state that the mall was temporarily closed. Forbes Magazine reported in February that the owner of Selpo that took over the mall closed 30 locations as the war started.
A video surfacing on telegram on June 25 did suggest that the mall was open by showing shoppers (the date though was hard to verify), and Human Rights Watch said it spoke to 15 people, including local officials and some of those they said were injured in the attack, who said the center was open.
Claims about a crowded mall being struck are still misleading, nevertheless, because a) we don’t yet know if the mall was ever directly struck by a missile; b) the empty parking lot could be explained by the mall’s having been evacuated earlier in the day if it was open to shoppers.
Very likely, a gradual fire from the back let the people evacuate calmly. So the Zelensky’s “unimaginable number of victims” is probably zero.
A drone view of the mall and photo of the rear facade shows that it burned from the back where the factory is located, but that there is no impact crater.
Additionally, all the structural vertical columns are still standing upright and no radial dispersion can be seen, making it clear that no blast occurred in this building, the roof simply molted down.
On June 29, President Zelensky released a new video published on CNN which claimed to provide more proof of the Russian strike on the shopping mall. However, the video actually showed an explosion next to some kind of industrial facility or scrap yard and no evidence of a mall being hit, lending greater credibility to the Russian narrative.
The blast furthermore was too far to the right to have struck the mall directly.
Whom Do You Believe?
The evidence, to be sure, is not yet conclusive, but at the very least the reporting by RT News and Moon of Alabama lays out some pertinent facts that are missing from the mainstream and even some alternative media.
RT and Moon of Alabama demonstrate that the target of the Russian missile strike was almost certainly the machine plant located near the mall—not a civilian shopping mall—something that was confirmed by The New York Times which reported that one of the missile strikes “hit an industrial site next to the mall [that was] operated by Kredmash, a manufacturer of asphalt-mixing plants.”
RT and Moon of Alabama raise question marks about whether the mall had any shoppers at all at the time of the strike —let alone the 1,000 claimed by President Zelensky—based on the fact that its parking lot looked empty and people were not running from it but next to it as the building burned.
The Donbass Insider reported that the video released by Zelensky on June 29 shows that one of the two missiles launched by Russia hit the railway leading to the factory which are just behind the shopping centre. This is confirmed by satellite images from June 28 showing a crater on the rails that were used to bring in military equipment. This is where the fire most likely spread to the shopping centre.
Were Both Russia and Ukraine Wrong?
A Canadian physicist who analyzed the videos from the blast in great depth, concluded that the Russian missiles hit neither the mall nor a machine plant, but rather a patch of vegetation and small trees just beyond the factory ground, which the physicist said was corroborated by the huge amount of earth being leveled up by the blast and the absence of a large crater at the impact point (the charge ignited with the missile deep into the ground, with a network of tree roots keeping soil projection limited).
According to the physicist, the two rectangles in the below photo are pivotal to disprove Kyiv assertions: they are the two walls that were illuminated by a flash of light emitted by the missile impact. This was not an explosion, but a bright flash of almost white color. The physicist says that if the flash lit those two external walls, then the flash was at the exterior of the mall.
The mall in turn caught fire because of the burning trees not because, as the Russians claimed, an armament cache was hit (or maybe the Ukrainian authorities set the fires themselves to create a media buzz).
The physicist believes that the target was probably the center of the factory but the two missiles deviated slightly.
Pretext For Further Escalation of War
The alleged mall attack is being used now to validate the further expansion of Western involvement in Ukraine.
At the G-7 summit in Madrid this week, President Joe Biden proclaimed that the United States was strengthening its forces in Europe and announced the establishment of a permanent military base in Poland, Russia’s traditional enemy.
British Prime-Minister Boris Johnson said that the mall attack showed “the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink,” just as British troops were set to be part of a massive expansion of NATO forces in Eastern Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile on Tuesday called the Russian attack in Kremanchuk “a new war crime,” while Zelensky addressed the UN Security Council saying Russia was a “terrorist state,” committing “daily terrorist acts.”
“We need to act urgently to do everything to make Russia stop the killing spree,” Zelensky said.
The BBC disputed that the plant manufactured any military equipment, claiming that it made road equipment, and machines for road construction. ↑
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).
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Good work as always Jeremy and Steve.