An investigation contradicts the Ukrainian president’s claim that a Russian attack killed civilians the same day as a visit by the US secretary of state.
A New York Times investigation ‘strongly suggested’ on Monday that Ukrainian forces were responsible for a deadly missile strike at a Donbass market, on the day US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the country.
The incident on September 6 in the Kiev-controlled Donbass city of Konstantinovka killed at least 15 civilians and injured scores of others.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky immediately accused Russia of launching the strike and claimed that any “attempts to deal with anything Russian” meant turning a blind eye to “the audacity of evil.” Many Western media outlets and some governments endorsed his statement.
The NYT said evidence pointed to a “tragic mishap” involving a Ukrainian anti-air Buk missile that apparently veered off course. The newspaper analyzed missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts, and social media posts to come to the conclusion. It noted that Ukrainian authorities tried to prevent journalists from accessing the impact site.
Some people unsympathetic to the Russian cause, including Bild journalist Julian Ropcke and the open-source intelligence analysis group CIT suggested Kiev’s responsibility shortly after the incident. The Ukrainian government indicated that it considered Russian guilt to be beyond any doubt.
“What would an investigation be needed for, if all is obvious for us?” Zelensky’s senior aide Mikhail Podoliak told the media at the time. He called any other scenario, including a Ukrainian error, “ridiculous.”
The missile was apparently one of the two fired by Ukrainian forces from the outskirts of the town of Druzhkovka some 15 km to the northwest of Konstantinovka, NYT reported. The projectile was likely a 9M38 model used by the Buk system, the newspaper concluded based on forensic evidence. Considering the short distance from the presumed launch point, it probably crashed with much of its fuel unspent, and the subsequent explosion left scorch marks at the scene.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia mentioned the incident in a speech last week, suggesting that Kiev may have orchestrated it deliberately to coincide with Blinken’s visit. He added that as the evidence clearly contradicts Zelensky’s accusation, “the Kiev regime and its sponsors are trying to hush up this story and keep it off radar.”
At least one Kiev official has been forced to resign after attributing a strike to Ukrainian forces that his government had pinned on Russia. Aleksey Arestovich quit his post as an advisor to the president in January, amid pressure over an interview in which he suggested that an apartment block in the city of Dnepr was hit by a Ukrainian interceptor rather than a Russian cruise missile.
The Russian military has maintained since the start of the conflict that it only targets military objectives in its operations.