At the beginning of September, a rocket hit a market in the Ukrainian town of Kostiantynivka, killing 16 people. Evidence suggests: The missile was fired not by Russia, but by Ukraine itself.
The news caused horror around the world: On September 6th, 16 people were killed and more than 30 injured by a rocket in the middle of a busy market street in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kostiantynivka. A little later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed “Russian terrorists” for the shelling on social media. Media worldwide – including the star – also assumed another attack by Russia on civilians that violated international law, as has happened so often in this war. But that may not be the truth.
According to research by the New York Times, which collected and analyzed evidence according to its own claims, it is not the troops of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin who are responsible for the victims, but the Ukrainian armed forces. Missile fragments, satellite images, witness statements and social media posts strongly suggested that the catastrophic impact was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defense missile fired from a Buk surface-to-air system,” the newspaper writes. “The attack appears to be a to have been a tragic mishap.”
This suspicion had already been expressed shortly after the incident by the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), an investigative group founded in Russia that analyzes armed conflicts by gathering information from open sources and has since been declared an “undesirable” organization and banned by the Russian authorities . According to air defense experts, missiles like the one that hit the Kostiantynivka market can go off course for a variety of reasons, such as electronic malfunctions or a steering fin damaged during launch.
Video shows explosion in Kostiantynivka
Both the New York Times and the CIT base their claims, among other things, on security camera footage that is supposed to prove that the rocket that hit Kostiantynivka came from Ukrainian-controlled territory and not from the direction of Russian lines. The recordings show how several pedestrians – startled by the noise in the sky – simultaneously turn their heads towards the approaching rocket. However, in their line of sight there is only territory held by the Ukraine, write the newspaper and the research group. A few moments before the explosion, you could also see the reflection of the projectile moving across the roofs of two parked cars.
The reaction of passers-by and the reflections prove that the rocket came from the northwest, it is said. The explosion site and the damage extending from the detonation point confirm this, reports the New York Times, citing an explosives expert and its own analysis.
There are no Russian positions in the northwest. According to the CIT, the Kremlin troops are stationed east and southeast of Kostiantynivka, about 18 to 19 kilometers from the city. If Russian units had launched the missile in the northwest, they would have had to do so from their own territory about 250 kilometers away in the Belgorod region. “Since we consider such a scenario to be unlikely, it is reasonable to assume that it was an accidental Ukrainian missile strike,” the research group concludes.
Further evidence, according to the New York Times, shows that just minutes before the market explosion, the Ukrainian military fired two surface-to-air missiles from the town of Druzhkivka, about 10 miles northwest of Kostiantynivka, toward the Russian front line. Reporters from the New York Times were in Druzhkivka when they heard a rocket launch at 2 p.m., followed by a second a few minutes later. By chance, a member of the team recorded the first kill in a voice message.
Several witnesses from Druzhkivka, including a Ukrainian soldier, also reported rockets being fired at the time. “One more,” said a Telegram post at 2:03 p.m. that referred to a second rocket launch. Residents also described them as unusually loud, beyond the sounds of war to which they have become accustomed, which is consistent with witness reports of previous launches of rockets from the mobile Buk system. The time of the launch also corresponds to the impact of the rocket in Kostjantynivka at 2:04 p.m.
Ukraine is investigating incident
The New York Times also reports, citing independent information from two military experts, that fragments of the projectile and the damage it caused to surrounding cars, buildings and the road most closely match 9M38 rockets fired by Buk -Air defense vehicles are fired. Both Ukraine and Russia use the Buk system. Since Kostiantynivka is located near the front line, it would be difficult to explain why Russia would have fired on the city from the Belgorod region, 250 kilometers away, with a weapon designed to defend against fighter planes, helicopters and cruise missiles.
Immediately after the explosion in Kostiantynivka, the Ukrainian authorities initially tried to deny their journalists access to the rocket debris and the impact area, reports the New York Times. However, the reporters finally managed to get to the scene, interview witnesses and collect remains of the weapon used. A spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces only said that the Ukrainian security service was investigating the incident. According to national law, he cannot comment further.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.