The September Missile Strike in Kostiantynivka: Uncovering the Truth
The 6 September missile strike on a busy market in the city of Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine was among the most devastating of the war, killing at least 16 people and wounding dozens more. Ukrainian officials and international media initially attributed the strike to Russia, prompting promises of “retribution” from President Volodymyr Zelensky. However, new forensic evidence has emerged suggesting that a misfiring Ukrainian air defense missile may have been responsible.
A Closer Look at the Evidence
The Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of exiled Russian open source investigators based in Georgia, published evidence last week indicating that the missile that struck Donetsk city came from the north-west, where Ukrainian forces were positioned. This finding was corroborated by an investigation conducted by The New York Times, which studied missile fragments and interviewed witnesses at the scene.
According to The New York Times, security camera footage revealed that the missile flew into Kostiantynivka from Ukrainian-held territory, not from behind Russian lines. Witnesses at the market turned to look to the north-west as the missile approached, and its reflection was visible in the windows of parked cars. The impact crater and the damage were consistent with a missile coming from that direction.
Furthermore, witnesses reported surface-to-air missile launches from the town of Druzhkivka to the north-west just moments before the deadly impact, and The New York Times was able to locate a launch site in that area.
Misinterpretations and Complexity
Analysis of missile fragments and impact damage led to the conclusion that the most likely munition was a 9M38 missile launched by a Buk anti-aircraft vehicle, which is used by both Ukraine and Russia. This finding contradicts the initial claim by Ukrainian officials that a Russian S-300 system was responsible for the strike.
While The New York Times’ conclusion is the most likely explanation, it is not definitive. It does not eliminate the possibility that the missile was fired by an S-300 system or a Russian Buk. Additionally, the flight path of the missile could have been more complex than initially presented.
The Reality of Misfires
Missiles can behave unexpectedly, especially if they have malfunctioned. Given the volume of Soviet-era air defense missiles Ukraine is firing to ward off Russian airstrikes, accidents are inevitable. According to Dr. Kristian Gustafson, a military intelligence specialist at Brunel University, once these missiles lose lock or fail to hit their targets, they become ballistic missiles. In contrast, modern Western missiles often have self-destruct features.
It is worth noting that previous missile strikes attributed to Russia have been assessed as Ukrainian air defense accidents. For example, in November, President Zelensky claimed that a Russian strike had landed in Poland and killed two farmers. However, Nato concluded that it was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defense missile.
The Responsibility Lies with Russia
Even in cases where Ukrainian air defense missiles have caused unintended casualties, Russia bears the ultimate responsibility for these incidents. The necessity to employ air defense measures arises solely due to Russia’s aggressive actions. Ukraine does not want to endanger its people with missile launches but feels compelled to do so to protect its citizens.
In conclusion, the September missile strike in Kostiantynivka has revealed a complex situation. While new evidence suggests that a misfiring Ukrainian air defense missile may have caused the tragedy, the full truth is yet to be determined. The investigation is ongoing, and further analysis is required to reach a definitive conclusion. As tensions continue to escalate in eastern Ukraine, the focus should be on finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict and preventing further loss of innocent lives.