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Disputing Russia’s claims about the attack on a mall in Kremenchuk, Ukraine

Since Russian troops attacked a shopping center in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, on June 27, false information has been circulating on social networks. The Russian Defense Ministry claims it did not target the mall, but rather a nearby ammunition stockpile, and claims the center simply caught fire. The ministry also states that the mall was no longer functional. However, open source evidence contradicts these claims.

If you only have a minute

  • The Russian Defense Ministry, supported by pro-Russian accounts on social networks, claims the Amstor shopping center in Kremenchuk caught fire after attacks on nearby ammunition depots. According to Moscow, the center was not “functional”. Surveillance and satellite images contradict this version.
  • According to several screenshots, the mall had been closed for a year. But, thanks to receipt photos and videos, we were able to confirm that the center was truly functional and open to the public.

A attack destroys a shopping center in Kremenchuk At least 18 people were killed and about 40 more missing in central Ukraine on June 27, the Ukrainian government said.

Moscow said Russian shelling was more likely to target nearby weapons depots rather than downtown.

Russian Defense Ministry released a statement regarding the attack on June 28. It did not dispute that Russia had fired missiles at Kremenchuk, nor that the Amstor shopping center had been hit. However, she argued that the mall was not functioning and had caught fire after the shelling of a nearby ammunition depot.

The statement was shared by the Russian embassy in the United Kingdom via Twitterwith over 1,000 likes.

Tweet from the Russian embassy in the UK, containing the Russian version of the attack on Kremenchuk.
Tweet from the Russian embassy in the UK, containing the Russian version of the attack on Kremenchuk. Russian Embassy in UK / Twitter

The image accompanying the tweet was created by a website called WarOnFakes, which claims to reveal false information published by Ukrainian media. However, French fact-checking media have identified the site as Russian propaganda.

According to the image, two rocket attacks targeted a factory in Kremenchuk and a nearby railway yard. The mall was not directly targeted, according to this account, but caught fire after the previous attacks on nearby locations.

A video posted on Twitter on June 28, two impacts can be seen from a CCTV camera in Misky Park, north of the factory and mall.

In the video, the camera points south toward the factory. We’ve located it on this map, using Google Street View.

Google Street View location of the camera, pointing to the factory.
Google Street View location of the camera, pointing to the factory. © Observers

In this Google Maps screenshot, the CCTV camera is located near the pink dot at the bottom left, the Kremenchuk factory is framed in red and the Amstor mall in blue.
In this Google Maps screenshot, the CCTV camera is located near the pink dot at the bottom left, the Kremenchuk factory is framed in red and the Amstor mall in blue. © Observers

In the Google Maps screenshot above, the CCTV camera is located near the pink dot at the bottom left, the Kremenchuk factory is framed in red and the Amstor mall in blue.

From 0:34 to 0:39 in the video, we see a cloud of smoke (in red in the shot below).

A cloud of smoke (in red).
A cloud of smoke (in red). © Observers

Then at 0:39 a second rocket seems to land much closer to the camera. The flames appear to be coming from the factory.

An explosion.
An explosion. © Observers

Based on the location of the camera and the two targets, we can conclude that the smoke cloud originated further east from the mall.

Planet, a satellite imaging company, provided the FRANCE 24 Observers team with images from June 28, the day after the attack, showing the location of the two rocket attacks.

As explained by Bellingcat, the Planet image shows the damage to the mall. Damage to the factory is also clearly visible in the images.

Satellite image provided by Planet, taken on June 28, showing the damage caused by the strikes.
Satellite image provided by Planet, taken on June 28, showing the damage caused by the strikes. © Planet Labs PBC

However, there seems to be little collateral damage in the area between the two strikes. The images of the planet show no signs of destruction on the nearby Kremenchuk Railroad deck, east of the mall, contrary to Russian claims that their forces struck there.

There is no sign of rocket impact in the vicinity of the mall, suggesting it was directly hit.

According to the available evidence, the first rocket appears to have hit the mall, as seen in the video, before a second hit the factory, which is 1 kilometer to the north.

A video Shared by a Ukrainian presidential adviser on June 28, it appears to show the first rocket heading towards the mall and then exploding. The video was shot near the mall, in a storage area with tanks and vegetation. It can be located geographically here: The camera was pointed at the mall and showed the control tower (in blue in the image below), another tower on the horizon (in green) and part of the mall (in red).


Thanks to Google Earth, we can geographically locate the camera that captured the attack on the mall.
Thanks to Google Earth, we can geographically locate the camera that captured the attack on the mall. © Observers

We've linked the elements visible in the video to Google Maps images.
We’ve linked the elements visible in the video to Google Maps images. © Observers

According to the Ukrainian army, the mall was hit by Russian X-22 missiles fired by Tu-22M3 bombers flying from Shaykovka airport in Russia’s Kaluga region.

The shopping center was no longer ‘functioning’ at the time of the strike?

Several pro-Russian Twitter accounts suggested the attack was a Ukrainian propaganda stunt, such as: this Twitter post of June 27 alleging that the mall was no longer functional. Others posted screenshots of the information and opening times of the shopping center on Googlestating that the Amstor mall was permanently closed, suggesting that this is evidence that there were no civilians in the mall.

But these claims are false.

As Bellingcat reports, a Telegram news channel for the city of Kremenchuk shared a screenshot that appears to show a message from June 23 in a Telegram chat group for Amstor employees. The message states in Russian that the shops will continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., despite the anti-aircraft sirens.

A number of users on Twitter, as Bellingcat explains, shared receipt photos showing the mall was open hours before the Russian strikes, such as this June 27 post showing a same day receipt.

Various shops reported that their employees had been hospitalized.

Telegram Channels published messages with information about missing persons in the hours after the strikes.

A video of the mall was posted to YouTube on June 27, showing a family shopping at the mall.

As noted by the Italian fact-checking website OpenAt 5:06 PM we see a label on the June 26 shopping bag, indicating that the center was open the day before the Russian strikes.

Finally, from the images shared on social networks and from the reports of journalists present on the site, it appears that the center was indeed open and serving customers on the day of the strike, which seems to be aimed directly at the center, contrary to the claims of the Russian authorities.

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