The New York Times, based on the results of its own investigations, says the attack on the market in the city of Kostiantynivka in Donetsk Oblast on 6 September, which claimed the lives of 16 people, was a "tragic mishap" caused by the fall of a Ukrainian missile and not by Russian shelling.
Source: NYT; sources of Ukrainska Pravda
Quote: "Throughout its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly and systematically attacked civilians and struck schools, markets and residences as a deliberate tactic to instill fear in the populace. In Kostiantynivka in April, they shelled homes and a preschool, killing six.
But evidence collected and analysed by The New York Times, including missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts and social media posts, strongly suggests the catastrophic strike was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defence missile fired by a Buk launch system. The attack appears to have been a tragic mishap."
Details: The article, citing air defence experts, notes that such missiles can go off course for a variety of reasons, from electronic malfunctions to damage during launch.
It emphasises that the alleged missile failure occurred against the background of gunfights, which often take place in this area. It also mentions that Russian troops shelled Kostiantynivka the night before.
A spokesman for the Armed Forces of Ukraine told the newspaper that the country's security service is investigating the incident and added that he could not comment further.
The NYT writes that immediately after the strike, the Ukrainian authorities allegedly tried to prevent its journalists from reaching the wreckage of the missile and the crash site, but in the end, the reporters were able to get to the scene, interview witnesses and collect the remnants of the weapons used.
The authors, based on the recording of a surveillance camera, claim that the missile flew into Kostiantynivka from territory controlled by Ukraine and not from the side of the Russians.
The NYT reports that the camera captured at least four pedestrians simultaneously turning their heads towards the sound of the approaching missile. It notes that all these people were facing the camera in the direction of territory controlled by Ukraine.
In addition, the missile reflection on the roofs of parked cars is visible just a moment before the strike. The article claims that this also indicates that the missile was coming from the northwest.
The Times article also points to a missile crater, and damage extending from the point of detonation, as further suggesting a launch from that area.
"Further evidence reveals that minutes before the strike, the Ukrainian military launched two surface-to-air missiles toward the Russian front line from the town of Druzhkivka, 10 miles northwest of Kostiantynivka.
Reporters with The Times were in Druzhkivka when they heard an outgoing missile launch at 2 p.m., followed a few minutes later by a second. By chance, one member of the team recorded the first launch in a voice message. Residents in Druzhkivka also reported an outgoing launch at that time on a local Telegram group," The NYT said.
The journalists noted that the time of these launches coincided with the launch of the missile that hit the market in Kostiantynivka at 14:04.
The Times reporters who visited the alleged launch area [a site in Druzhkivka – ed.] saw evidence that it had recently been used by the military; in particular, there were trenches, garbage pits and wide tracks typical of large military equipment.
Another key indicator they mentioned is scorch marks. They say that various ground-based air defence systems launch missiles from the back of a large vehicle and, during launch, burn the surrounding grass.
"Analysis of before-and-after satellite imagery shows new scorch marks around the trenches on the day of the strike, possibly indicating that the site was used for launching missiles," The Times said.
The authors also reported that the size of the impact hole and of the fragments found at the scene corresponds to the size and shape of one weapon in particular, which is the 9M38 missile launched by the Buk air defence system, noting that both Ukraine and Russia use this system.
"Several witnesses either heard or saw Ukrainian forces firing surface-to-air missiles from Druzhkivka toward Kostiantynivka at the time of the market strike. And evidence collected at the market shows that the missile came from that direction," The Times summed up.
A Ukrainska Pravda source has clarified that the Ukrainian Air Force did not use Buk air defence systems that day. Ukrainska Pravda’s sources say the Ukrainian Ground Forces have no Buk air defence systems in service.
Ukrainska Pravda also requested a comment from the Press and Information Office of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and the Air Force.
Former Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar did not answer Ukrainska Pravda’s calls, and requests for comment sent through messaging apps have remained unread for over two hours.
The Centre for Strategic Communications of the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces told Ukrainska Pravda that "in order to establish the circumstances of the missile attack, the Security Service of Ukraine launched criminal proceedings under Art. 438 'Violation of the laws and customs of war' on 6 September. An official investigation is currently underway. Pending its completion, it is prohibited by law to comment on any details of the incident, and it is inappropriate to do so. This can and will be used by Russian propagandists."