The missile strike that resulted in the tragic deaths of at least 15 civilians and left three dozen others wounded, after impacting a market in Kostyantynivka, Donetsk region, on September 6, appears to have been launched by Ukrainian forces, not Russian ones. This revelation comes from an investigation conducted by the US-based New York Times (NYT), which considered witness accounts, video footage analysis, satellite images, and missile fragments. However, Ukraine’s civilian counterintelligence agency SBU has denied these findings.
According to the NYT, it is likely that a Ukrainian Buk air defense system missile missed its intended target. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian counterintelligence SBU rejected this claim, asserting that the investigation suggests the enemy struck the civilian area using the S-300 complex. They cited fragments of the missile found at the scene as evidence, and the investigation is ongoing.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, acknowledged that doubts about Russia’s involvement in the Kostyantynivka strike have fueled conspiracy theories. He emphasized the need for a thorough review and legal assessment by investigators, assuring that society would eventually receive answers about the incident. He also reiterated that the war in Ukraine was initiated by Russia’s invasion, which frequently launches massive airstrikes on Ukrainian civilian targets, and Ukraine is merely defending itself.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had previously attributed the attack to “Russian terrorists” approximately two hours after the market was hit, an assertion largely accepted by Western nations. The NYT, in its current report, quoted a more cautious statement from a Ukrainian armed forces spokesperson, who indicated that the matter was still under investigation and no further information could be provided. Furthermore, the warhead that detonated in Kostyantynivka does not match the missiles typically used by the system, as noted by the US newspaper.
The NYT reported that on the day of the incident, the Ukrainian army fired two surface-to-air missiles from the nearby village of Druzhkivka toward Russian positions at 2:00 p.m., following shelling by the Russian army in the town the previous night. The firing from Druzhkivka was confirmed by witnesses, including an anonymous member of the Ukrainian army interviewed by the NYT. Satellite imagery also showed charred grass at the site, indicative of Buk system firing.
The American daily suggested that the attack was a tragic accident, as experts noted that missiles like the one involved in the marketplace strike can deviate from their intended path due to various factors, including electronic glitches or damage to a missile’s wing during launch.
Early reports on social media had already indicated that security camera footage showed the missile coming from the northwest, where Ukrainian-controlled territory is located, rather than from behind Russian lines. However, it was initially unclear what type of weapon was used.
In footage of the marketplace incident, the sound of an approaching missile can be heard, and at least four pedestrians appear to turn their heads toward the incoming sound simultaneously. The missile’s flight path is also visible from the reflection on the roofs of parked cars. Experts consulted by the NYT suggested that the northwesterly direction of flight aligns with the fragmentation of debris from the missile’s explosion shortly before impact. Nonetheless, some experts have raised questions about this analysis.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to the NYT’s findings by placing blame on Ukraine for the deaths in Kostyantynivka. She emphasized the urgent need for the demilitarization of the Kiev regime, even if the incident was unintentional. Zakharova accused Kiev of attempting an information operation to shift blame onto Russia.