President Vladimir Putin has denied the allegations that Russian forces were responsible for a strike on a crowded shopping center in the Ukrainian town of Kremenchuk.
The statement was made on Wednesday at a news conference following the 6th Summit of Heads of State of Caspian littoral states in Ashgabat.
While answering journalists’ questions, the Russian president claimed that weapons, multiple launch rocket systems, artillery guns, and heavy weapons are deployed in residential districts and other places in Ukraine.
“I am sure that this is what happened in this case as well. They are hiding the equipment, especially equipment delivered from the West, in hangars, at outdoor markets, at plants, and in the shops where this equipment is repaired or adjusted after a long period of transportation from foreign countries,” Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
“The Russian army does not strike at civilian facilities. There is no need for that. We have the possibility of identifying the targets, and we have modern long-distance precision weapons to attack them,” he added.
Russia has faced international condemnation over what Ukraine called a “war crime” against civilians in Kremenchuk, 330 kilometers (205 miles) southeast of Kyiv. Nearly 1,000 civilians were estimated to be inside the mall at the time of the attack on June 27. At least 20 people were killed and 56 wounded. Officials from Ukraine said over 40 people had been reported missing after the missile struck the mall.
Ukraine’s air force command said the mall was hit by two long-range X-22 missiles fired from Tu-22M3 bombers that flew from Shaykovka airfield in Russia’s Kaluga region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shared surveillance footage Tuesday showing the moment the Kremenchuk shopping mall was hit by a missile strike. During his evening video address to the nation, President Zelensky called the strike “one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history.”
“It is clear that Russian killers received those exact coordinates for this missile. They wanted to kill as many people as possible in a peaceful city,” he said.
He also accused the Russian president of becoming “a terrorist” leading a “terrorist state” and urged the United Nations to expel Russia from the international organization.
The G7 leaders issued a joint statement condemning the missile attack as “abominable” and vowed to hold Vladimir Putin accountable for Kremenchuk’s “war crime.” At the G7 gathering in the Bavarian Alps, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Kremenchuk attack demonstrated the Russian president’s “depths of cruelty and barbarism.”
“Putin must realize that his behavior will do nothing but strengthen the resolve that the UK and every other G7 country stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, has rejected claims that the Russian army was targeting civilians in the Kremenchuk shopping center. He called accusations a “new Bucha-style Ukrainian provocation,” referring to mass atrocities against civilians in a Kyiv suburb in late March. The Russian envoy claims Kyiv orchestrated the attack in Kremenchuk to ensure attention ahead of the NATO summit.
On February 24, Russia launched an all-out offensive in Ukraine, claiming that the assault was aimed to protect the people of the separatist-controlled regions in Ukraine, allegedly being subjected to abuse by the Ukrainian military. The Kremlin explained that the decision was made after separatist leaders of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics had asked Moscow for military support against Kyiv. In his televised address, Russian President Vladimir Putin told foreign countries not to interfere, saying that it could lead to “consequences they have never seen.”