I reviewed the evidence provided by the New York Times that the missile which killed or injured dozens in the town of Kostantinivka on September 6th was fired by Ukrainian forces in my previous article - "The Fragmentation of Ukraine", concluding that the town was intentionally targeted by Kiev as a false flag attack, and timed to coincide with Anthony Blinken's visit to Kiev. As the NYT's article and comprehensive investigation is behind a paywall, I think it useful to republish it below. The essential photographs and video were contained in the previous article, so will only be mentioned here. I have however highlighted some significant points in the article. While the evidence that the attack was intentional - and consequently a serious war crime - is mostly circumstantial, it is fairly compelling. The NYT investigation didn't draw a conclusion on the intent of those responsible, beyond speculation that there must have been some 'tragic fault' that caused the 9M38 surface to air missile to come down and hit the marketplace. Given that accusing Kiev of committing such a crime on purpose and for propaganda purposes only - as it was not a military target and in Ukrainian-held territory - was not an option for the American paper, it failed to draw the most obvious conclusions from the evidence collected. That included the trajectory of the missile towards a distant point in the front, and the absence of any report of Russian missiles or fighter jets that may have been the intended target. Had the missile been of different type, designed to hit and destroy targets on the ground, the distance from the Russian front may have been less significant, but the NYT investigators collected numerous fragments of a type matching the fragmentation warhead of a 9M38 missile. It is perhaps worth noting that in the investigation of the MH17 crash site, only ONE such 'butterfly-shaped' fragment was found - but held up as evidence, false evidence, that the plane was brought down with such a missile. The NYT also visited the apparent launch site of the missile in Druzhivka, and mentions before-and-after satellite photos that matched the timing of the missile launch. The team also heard numerous reports that there were two missiles launched just several minutes apart, while other sources claim the second missile also hit Kostantinivka but failed to detonate - something which would certainly confirm the malign intent of the launches. For those with access, this is the link to the NYT's article, which includes a striking video compilation as a header: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/18/world/europe/ukraine-missile-kostiantynivka-market.html
Evidence Suggests Ukrainian Missile Caused Market Tragedy Witness accounts and an analysis of video and weapon fragments suggest a Ukrainian missile failed to hit its intended target and landed in a bustling street, with devastating consequences. The Sept. 6 missile strike on Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine was one of the deadliest in the country in months, killing at least 15 civilians and injuring more than 30 others. The weapon’s payload of metal fragments struck a market, piercing windows and walls and wounding some victims beyond recognition. Less than two hours later, President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Russian “terrorists” for the attack, and many media outlets followed suit. 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. (it's important to point out that this is a totally false claim) In Kostiantynivka in April, they shelled homes and a preschool, killing six. But evidence collected and analyzed 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 defense missile fired by a Buk launch system. The attack appears to have been a tragic mishap. Air defense experts say missiles like the one that hit the market can go off course for a variety of reasons, including an electronic malfunction or a guidance fin that is damaged or sheared off at the time of launch. The likely missile failure happened amid the back-and-forth battles common in the surrounding area. Russian forces shelled Kostiantynivka the night before; Ukrainian artillery fire from the city was reported in a local Telegram group just minutes before the strike on the market. A spokesman for Ukraine’s armed forces said the country’s security service is investigating the incident, and under national law can’t comment further. Ukrainian authorities initially tried to prevent journalists with The Times from accessing the missile debris and impact area in the strike’s immediate aftermath. But the reporters were eventually able to get to the scene, interview witnesses and collect remnants of the weapon used. The Strike Security camera footage shows that the missile flew into Kostiantynivka from the direction of Ukrainian-held territory, not from behind Russian lines. As the sound of the approaching missile is heard, at least four pedestrians appear to simultaneously turn their heads toward the incoming sound. They face the camera — in the direction of Ukrainian-held territory. Moments before it strikes, the missile’s reflection is visible as it passes over two parked cars, showing it traveling from the northwest. The missile’s warhead detonates a few yards above the ground shortly before impact, blasting metal fragments outward. The resulting crater and damage extending from the point of detonation is consistent with a missile coming from a northwesterly route, according to an explosives expert and a Times analysis. (this refers to the introductory annotated video) A Suspected Ukrainian Launch Site 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. “One more,” a post at 2:03 p.m. said, referring to a second missile launch. Locals near the launches described them as abnormally loud — beyond the sounds of war they have become accustomed to — which tracks with witness accounts of past Buk launches. The timing of these launches is consistent with the time frame for the missile that struck the market in Kostiantynivka, around 2:04 p.m. (Ed: note that the sound of one missile launch is recorded just before the missile hits, but sound would take a minute to travel 10 miles from Druzhkivka; perhaps the sound is of the first missile launch, which lands elsewhere? The sound of the arriving missile should be heard after the explosion.) Additionally, two witnesses who spoke to The Times said they saw the missiles being fired from Druzhkivka in the direction of the Russian front line around the time of the strike; one of them said he saw the missiles going in the direction of Kostiantynivka. A Ukrainian soldier stationed in Druzhkivka, who asked to remain anonymous, also said he heard two missile launches at around the same time. One of the witnesses also said the missiles were launched from fields on the outskirts of the town, a place residents say is used by the Ukrainian military and from which they have previously seen air defense missiles. Times reporters who visited the site saw indications that it had recently been used by the military, including trenches, trash pits and wide tracks consistent with a large military vehicle. Another key indicator: scorch marks. Various ground-launched air defense missiles are fired from the rear of a large vehicle and burn the surrounding turf when they are fired. 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. (Illustrations of the site, and map of the area included in previous article) The Missile In the aftermath of the attack, Ukrainian authorities said Russian forces used a missile fired by an S-300 air defense system, which Russia has used both to intercept aircraft and strike targets on the ground. But an S-300 missile carries a different warhead from the one that exploded in Kostiantynivka. (I don't believe that Russia has BUK systems in Ukraine, or the need to use them against fighter jets) The metal facades of buildings closest to the explosion were perforated with hundreds of square or rectangular holes, probably made by cube-like objects blown outward from the missile. Measurements of the holes — and fragments found at the scene — are consistent in size and shape with one weapon in particular: the 9M38 missile, which is fired by the mobile Buk antiaircraft vehicle. Ukraine is known to use the Buk system, as is Russia. Some of the holes are less than 10 millimeters in width, while others are slightly larger. The 9M38 contains two different sizes of solid-metal cubic fragments: eight millimeters and 13 millimeters across. (these holes and fragments also illustrated here) A Times reporter also reviewed other missile fragments recovered from multiple locations in Ukraine that had been fired by Russian S-300, S-400 and Buk air defense systems, as well as two different American air defense systems. Their shapes and measurements show that the damage at the market site was most likely caused by an 9M38. Two independent military bomb-disposal experts, who asked to remain anonymous so they could speak candidly, came to the same conclusion and said that the fragments and damage at the strike site are most consistent with an 9M38. 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. Why the missile, which has a maximum range of just over 17 miles, may have landed in Kostiantynivka is unclear — though it’s possible it malfunctioned and crashed before hitting its intended target. In any case, at such a short range — less than 10 miles — the missile is most likely to have landed with unspent fuel in its rocket motor, which would detonate or burn upon impact, offering a possible explanation for the widespread scorch marks at the market. (this is not a credible or necessary explanation as the 9M38 missile has a 70Kg HE-frag warhead - though there were signs of incendiaries included in the missile) Credits: Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting from Washington, D.C., and Aric Toler from New York. Additional research was contributed by Rob McDonagh of Storyful. John Ismay is a Pentagon correspondent in the Washington bureau and a former Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer. More about John Ismay Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a Ukraine correspondent and a former Marine infantryman. More about Thomas Gibbons-Neff Haley Willis is a journalist with the Visual Investigations team. She has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes for investigations into the U.S. military’s dismissal of civilian casualty claims and police killings during traffic stops. More about Haley Willis Malachy Browne is enterprise director of the Visual Investigations team at The Times. He was a member of teams awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2020 and 2023. More about Malachy Browne Christoph Koettl is a Visual Investigations journalist with the Times video team, specializing in the analysis of satellite imagery, video and other visual evidence. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of the civilian toll of U.S. air and drone strikes, and Russian atrocities in Ukraine. More about Christoph Koettl Alexander Cardia is a designer, animator and graphics editor with the Visual Investigations team at The Times. He was among the recipients of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for coverage of Russian atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine. More about Alexander Cardia A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 20, 2023, Section A, Page 8 of the New York edition with the headline: Missile That Killed 15 at a Market May Have Come From Ukraine.
DM Sept 26 2023