At the beginning of September, 15 people died after a rocket hit a market in Konstantinovka, Ukraine. Initially it was said that the rocket was Russian. Now, after research, the New York Times has come to the conclusion that a misguided Ukrainian rocket may have been responsible for the accident. David Nauer, foreign editor and former SRF Russia correspondent, assesses the New York Times’ research.
David Nauer is foreign editor at Radio SRF. From 2016 to 2021 he worked as a correspondent in Russia. Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, he has been traveling regularly to Ukraine.
SRF News: How plausible is the New York Times’ research that the rocket that hit a market in Konstantinovka was a Ukrainian ricochet?
David Nauer: The research seems plausible to me. Colleagues from the New York Times interviewed eyewitnesses. They visited the site of the rocket impact and evaluated videos and satellite images. All these puzzle pieces form a picture. According to this picture, it may well be that the Konstantinovka market was hit by a Ukrainian missile. The New York Times suspects that the rocket was defective or misdirected.
The research is plausible, but the New York Times does not have any proof.
No, there is no definitive proof. There are just several clues. It is still fundamentally conceivable that it was a Russian rocket after all. The Ukrainian government also continues to insist that the missile came from Russia.
The rocket that fell on Konstantinovka fit well with Russia’s ruthless warfare.
At first, hardly anyone doubted that Russia was responsible – probably also because Russia repeatedly attacks civilian targets in Ukraine.
That’s correct. Several media outlets, including us, have spoken of a Russian attack. The reason for this premature attribution of blame was Russia’s systematic attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine. When I travel through Ukraine, I always see destroyed homes, schools, shopping centers and hotels. The rocket that fell on Konstantinovka fit well with Russia’s ruthless warfare.
Based on current information, it was a mistake to immediately blame Russia. As a reporter, how do you deal with this uncertainty of responsibilities?
For example, I was once in a completely destroyed village over which there had been fierce fighting. It is impossible to determine which house was destroyed by a Russian shell and which by a Ukrainian shell. In other cases, however, it is simple. For example, I was once in Kharkiv when there was an air raid and then a serious explosion that destroyed a residential building. It is then very likely that there will be a Russian attack. But we must also not forget what kind of war we are dealing with here. If Putin hadn’t started this war, there wouldn’t be any shooting in Ukraine.
Credibility is an incredibly important resource for Ukraine
Misguided missiles happen again and again in war, but that would be a fiasco for Zelenskiy.
Of course, Zelensky’s credibility suffers when he points to the Russians shortly after the Konstantinovka attack and then later it turns out that everything is not so clear. Credibility is an incredibly important resource for Ukraine. The West supports Ukraine very strongly, also because the West is convinced that the Ukrainians are in the right. But if at some point the impression arises that Zelensky is telling an untruth, then this could have fatal consequences for Ukraine.
The interview was conducted by Ivan Lieberherr.