On September 6, Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine witnessed one of the deadliest attacks in recent months.
A missile strike claimed the lives of at least 15 civilians, leaving over 30 others wounded.
Unintended Missile Attack Sheds Light on Kostiantynivka Tragedy
The attack unleashed a devastating payload of metal fragments that tore through a market, causing significant damage to windows and walls, tragically rendering some victims unrecognizable.
Within hours of the attack, President Volodymyr Zelensky pointed fingers at Russian ‘terrorists,’ a claim echoed by various media outlets.
Throughout Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there have been recurring deliberate attacks on civilians, schools, markets, and residences, all part of a strategy to instill fear.
Kostiantynivka witnessed a similar tragedy in April when houses and a preschool were bombed, leading to six casualties.
However, an in-depth investigation by The New York Times, encompassing examining missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness testimonies, and social media posts, has unearthed a startling revelation.
Strong evidence suggests that the catastrophic attack was not a deliberate act of violence but the unintended outcome of an errant Ukrainian air defense missile fired from a Buk launch system.
This incident is a tragic accident, shedding light on the complexities of warfare.
Air defense experts affirm that missiles intended for targets, like the market in question, can veer off course due to several factors, including electronic malfunctions or damage to the guidance fins during launch.
The missile mishap occurred amidst ongoing fighting in the vicinity, with Russian forces shelling Kostiantynivka the night before.
A local Telegram group reported Ukrainian artillery fire from the city minutes before the market attack.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine initiated an investigation, but constraints arising from national law have limited their comments on the incident.
Initially, Ukrainian authorities attempted to block The Times journalists from accessing the missile debris and impact area.
However, they ultimately gained access to the site, conducted witness interviews, and collected remnants of the weapon used.
Security camera footage plays a pivotal role in this revelation. It shows that the missile did not approach Kostiantynivka from behind the Russian border but, instead, from the direction of Ukrainian-occupied territory.
Witness accounts align with this trajectory.
Evidence Points to Accidental Missile Launch Near Kostiantynivka Tragedy
Further evidence suggests that Ukrainian forces fired two surface-to-air missiles from Druzhkivka, located 10 miles northwest of Kostiantynivka, minutes before the attack.
Coincidentally, The Times reporter heard these missile launches while in Druzhkivka.
Witnesses in Druzhkivka also reported seeing missiles fired towards the Russian front line at the time of the attack.
Signs of recent military activity were evident in the vicinity, including trenches, trash pits, and tracks consistent with large military vehicles.
The metal facades of buildings near the missile strike were riddled with square or rectangular holes, resembling fragments ejected by a 9M38 missile fired from a mobile Buk anti aircraft vehicle.
Several indicators and experts’ assessments further corroborate this conclusion.
While the exact reason for the missile’s landing in Kostiantynivka, with a maximum range of slightly over 17 miles, remains unclear, one possibility is that it malfunctioned and crashed before reaching its intended target.
This proximity to the launch point would have left unused fuel in the rocket motor, potentially explaining the extensive scorch marks observed at the market.
This tragic incident underscores the unpredictable nature of warfare, where accidents can result in unintended suffering.
The evidence suggests that the devastating attack on Kostiantynivka was not a deliberate act of violence but a heartbreaking accident amid a region ravaged by conflict.