Targeting Civilians – The Shopping Mall at Kremenchuk (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #118)

On day one of the Group of Seven Summit at Schloss Emlau in Bavaria, the focus was less on the leaders of the free world and more on the message Vladimir Putin sent by renewing missile attacks on Kyiv. The damage in this attack was relatively light, but the message was clear, Putin’s forces could strike anywhere in Ukraine at any time. Tragically, Putin did not stop with Kyiv. Not long after the G7 began its second day of meetings, horrific reports of another Russian strike on a civilian area in Ukraine made the news. This time a couple of two-thousand-pound Soviet missiles hit a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, a city of 217,000 situated along the Dnipro River in central Ukraine. Kremenchuk is in an area that Russian ground forces have not come close to occupying. That does not mean Kremenchuk is safe. As countless examples have shown, distance is no obstacle to Russian missile strikes on Ukraine.  

Smoked out – Shopping mall in Kremnchuk on fire after Russian missile strike

The Death of Innocents – Collateral Damage
The first four months of the Ukraine-Russia War have proven that Russia will rain terror down on innocent civilians. This is what happened when hundreds of Ukrainians became unwitting targets inside the shopping mall in Kremenchuk. The Russian missile strike was no accident. Instead, it was by design. A terror tactic to wreak maximum havoc in a provincial city that was thought to be safe. Some of those injured in the attack had moved to Kremenchuk from other areas in eastern Ukraine hoping to get outside the line of fire. The Putin regime considers the areas frequented by civilians to be high value targets. Footage taken after the strike shows dark clouds of smoke billowing forth from the burning structure. The morning after the attack, 18 people were reported dead and at least another 60 wounded. Counts of the dead are likely to grow as investigators, firemen, and the police continue sifting through the rubble.

The shopping mall in Kremenchuk now joins an infamous list of places across Ukraine where civilians have suffered mass murder due to Russian artillery and missiles strikes. The most notable of these incidents include civilians killed while waiting for a train in Kramatorsk, queueing in line for bread in Chernihiv, and the horrifying strike on the theater in Mariupol as women, children and the elderly sheltered from the fighting. These are just a few of literally thousands of murderous attacks on civilians that Russia has carried out with hardly a second thought to the collateral damage they cause. It might even be said that collateral damage is the goal of such attacks.

Everyone in Ukraine has become a target, whether they are Ukrainian or Russian speaking, elderly or children, male or female. Individuals are caught in the crossfire and viewed by Russian forces as moving targets. Civilian casualties have gone from hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands and will run into the hundreds of thousands if the war continues at its current pace. Every one of the civilian casualties adds up to a clear conclusion, this war is genocidal. Vladimir Putin and the Russian forces that do his bidding are committing war crimes.

Before the firestorm – Shopping mall in Kremnchuk

Quick Strikes – Slow Sanctions
The strike in Kremenchuk stole some of the headlines from the G7 summit. That is just the way Vladimir Putin wants it. The regime he leads has proven capable of doing almost anything to garner attention on the world stage. While G7 leaders meet to coordinate sanctions against Russia, boost European security, and bolster military support for Ukraine, Putin reminds them that he can and will order his forces to attack non-military targets to stoke maximum outrage. Putin is showing through these actions that he can do whatever he wants in Ukraine and there is nothing that can be done about it. While that is not true, the western world’s responses to Russian aggression are logical, rational, and calibrated to cause long term pain. This is mainly being done in the form of sanctions.

Such actions, while highly commendable, are very slow to take effect. This is frustrating for those who want to help Ukraine resist aggression. Any delays in getting support to Ukraine costs lives. The slower response from Ukraine’s allies also allows Putin to control part of the narrative through spectacular acts of pre-meditated mass murder. The strike on Kremenchuk was a public relations stunt. The regime believes that any publicity is better than none. This helps Putin stay relevant on the world stage, no easy feat for a man that most of the world wants to see either disappear or be put on trial for crimes against humanity.

For their part, the Russians rationalized the shopping mall strike in Kremenchuk by stating that there were military assets being stored nearby. According to one of their spokespeople, the Russian strike targeted weapons storage units which were close to the shopping mall. When the missiles hit these, they caused explosions which led to mass casualties. Ukraine responded that there were no places or structures of military significance within five kilometers of the shopping mall. This has only led to greater outrage at the Russian’s killing and maiming of civilians inside the mall. Oddly, the greater the outrage, the more likely Russia will be to continue these attacks.

Missile attack – Freeze frame image of Russian missile just before it struck the shopping mall in Kremenchuk

Cultivating Fear – Striking Back
It was impossible for leaders at the G7 to ignore the attack on Kremenchuk. Vladimir Putin knows this and that is why he looks to continue cultivating fear. It is not certain what the strategic or tactical ideas are behind such strikes. Is it to get the western world to cry mercy and push Ukraine to negotiate a settlement with Russia? Is it to engender a sense of hopelessness in the Ukrainian population to the point that they also cry for mercy? Or is it to kill as many Ukrainians as possible in acts of genocidal murder which will ethnically cleanse much of eastern Ukraine? The answer is all the above. Yet despite these actions, the sides are as far apart from a negotiated peace as they have been since the war began.
With neither side anywhere close to negotiating, the chance that the war will drag on for many more months is certain. The chance that the war could go on for years is increasing. This can only mean that more civilians will be targeted. The shopping mall strike in Kremenchuk will be forgotten when Russia commits even greater atrocities.

Click here for: Putin’s Nightmare – Finland & Sweden In NATO (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #119)

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