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19 Sep, 2023 14:44

Zelensky’s top aide accuses NYT of encouraging ‘conspiracy theories’

The newspaper found that evidence 'strongly suggests' Ukraine is to blame for the deaths of 15 civilians in the Donbass city of Konstantinovka
Zelensky’s top aide accuses NYT of encouraging ‘conspiracy theories’

A New York Times report suggesting that Ukraine was responsible for killing at least 15 civilians in a missile strike on a Donbass market will fuel “conspiracy theories,” the top adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has declared.

Mikhail Podoliak seemed to be dismissing the newspaper's investigation which showed that the attack came from Ukrainian, not Russian, forces. Zelensky had blamed Russia for the killings, and his assertions were prominently carried by leading western media. 

“No doubt, the appearance of articles in foreign media with doubts about Russia's involvement in the attack on Konstantinovka entail the growth of conspiracy theories,” Podoliak wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday.

Promising that the incident would be investigated by Ukrainian authorities, Podoliak added that “society will surely receive an answer to the question of what exactly happened in Kostiantynivka, as in the thousands of other instances of Russian strikes on our country as part of an unprovoked war.”

The strike took place on September 6, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Kiev. A missile struck a market in the Kiev-controlled Donbass city of Konstantinovka, killing 15 civilians and injuring scores of others.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky immediately accused Russia of launching the strike and claimed that any “attempts to deal with anything Russian” meant turning a blind eye to “the audacity of evil.” 

Although many Western media outlets and some governments endorsed his statement, doubt soon crept in.

The New York Times reported on Monday that evidence from the scene pointed to a “tragic mishap” involving a Ukrainian anti-air Buk missile. The newspaper analyzed missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts, and social media posts to come to the conclusion, and noted that Ukrainian authorities tried to prevent journalists from accessing the impact site.

At the time, Podoliak ridiculed the notion of investigating the strike. “What would an investigation be needed for, if all is obvious for us?” he said.

In his post on Monday, the official insisted that Ukraine “exclusively conducts defensive actions, defending itself and its territories.” 

However, Ukrainian forces have fired missiles at civilian targets before. In addition to its regular shelling of the Donetsk People’s Republic since 2014, Ukrainian forces have used Western-provided missiles to strike the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, and repeatedly struck Donetsk with cluster munitions and aerially-dispersed landmines.

Last March, a Ukrainian Tochka-U missile was allegedly fired at a residential area of Donetsk, killing at least 20 people after it was downed by Russian air defense systems. Despite evidence from the ground showing the missile was Ukrainian in origin, Zelensky nevertheless blamed Russia for attacking its own people, insisting it was “unmistakably a Russian rocket” and that “there’s no point talking about it.”