A missile strike that killed at least 15 people in a Ukrainian market was blamed on Russia. There's now growing evidence it was fired by Ukraine.

  • A missile that hit Kostyantynivka in September was likely Ukrainian, an NYT analysis said.

  • Kyiv had blamed the attack, which killed at least 15 people, on Russia.

  • However, data analyzed by the NYT suggests it was an air defense missile that went off course.

A missile that struck a busy market in Kostyantynivka, east Ukraine, was likely misfired by Ukraine and not the result of a Russian attack, a New York Times analysis found. 

The missile struck the town, which is close to where Russian and Ukrainian forces are battling in Bakhmut, on September 6, killing at least 15 and injuring around 30 people.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shortly afterward blamed the attack on Russia, and the UN and Ukraine's Western allies condemned the strike.

"This Russian evil must be defeated as soon as possible," Zelenskyy said, according to RFERL. He described the missile strike as a deliberate attack on a "peaceful city."

But a new analysis of missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts, and social media posts suggests the incident was likely caused by a misfired air defense missile, the Times said.

Analysts told the Times that problems with a missile's guidance systems, or a fault with its tail fin, can cause one to accidentally go off course.

Russia has deliberately attacked civilian targets multiple times during the war, Human Rights Watch said. The UN says around 9,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the war so far.

According to the Times, several pieces of evidence point to the Kostyantynivka strike being a tragic Ukrainian error.

  • Video footage and data from the impact site indicate it came from territory to the northwest of Kostyantynivka controlled by Ukraine.

  • Two Times reporters were in the village of Druzhkivka, 10 miles northwest of Kostiantynivka, and said that shortly after 2 p.m. on September 6 Ukraine launched two surface-to-air missiles. Several eyewitnesses backed the claim. A missile struck Kostiantynivka at 2.04 p.m.

  • Analysis of shrapnel damage at the impact site is consistent with the missile being a 9M38 launched by a Buk surface-to-air launch system of the kind used by Ukraine and Russia. It is not consistent with Kyiv's claim it was caused by a Russian S-300 missile.

It would not be the first time Ukrainian air defense missiles have misfired. A November 2022 strike on a village in Poland, a NATO member, which was initially believed to have been caused by Russia was later found to have likely been the result of a misfiring Ukrainian air defense missile, Reuters reported. 

The Ukrainian defense ministry did not immediately return a request for comment from Insider. It told the Times the incident in Kostiantynivka is being investigated by Ukrainian security services.

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