War in Ukraine | The July 15 Airstrike on Snizhne: Who to Blame?

Local news: An airstrike in Snizhne destroyed a house. There are victims among the civilian population.

On Tuesday July 15, 2014 a warplane attacked the rebel-held town of Snizhne (Snezhnoye, Snezhnoe, ‘Snow’) in eastern Ukraine. Its rockets shattered an apartment building and a tax office. At least 11 people were killed.

Who was responsible for this attack? But first, who was blamed right after it?

(Pro-) Kiev & Western media

Dmitry Tymchuk (a member of the Ukraine parliament, military expert and blogger) blamed Russia for the early morning strike on Snizhne. “It must have been a Russian aircraft”, Tymchuk wrote on Facebook.  This message was spread by Ukrainian media and social media, like by Euromaidan on Twitter.

Interfax Ukraine reported that Andrey Lysenko, spokesperson of the National Security Council (NSDC) in Ukraine, had said the damage was caused by an unknown aircraft to discredit the Ukrainian military. Source: Vesti Ukraine

Reuters: Ukraine sees Russian role in air strike on town

However, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense did not go so far as claiming it was a Russian plane, but insisted that the bombing could not have been carried out by its air force as none of its planes were on sorties at the time, Washington Post/Associated Press reported.

Foreign ministry spokesman Vasyl Zvarich, also suggesting Russian involvement in the Snizhne attack, said Ukraine hoped the EU’s threats to move to a tougher level of sanctions against Russia were not simply “declaratory”, according to Reuters.

“Residents of Snizhne blamed the Ukrainian air force for the attack, as did separatist rebels”, said Irish Times.

(Pro-) Separatist & Russian media

Some (Pro-)Separatist and Russian news outlets claimed Ukrainian aircraft were responsible for the attacks, such as RIA Novosti  and Novorus news agency.

Lifenews and Rusvesna (‘Russian Spring’), at least in the headlines, only mentioned that airstrikes had occurred. An eyewitness supposedly told Lifenews he had seen a Su-25 shooting missiles. “According to preliminary information SU-25 Armed Forces of Ukraine issued struck the city center hit Nursi, issued at least 6 missiles” – Russian Spring

Lifenews: Snow in the Donetsk region has undergone a powerful airstrike

Korrespondent seem to only have reported the facts known to them at the time. They cited both Tymchuk’s as well as rebel leader Strelkov’s opinions, but said they did not know who was responsible.

Also, “Voice of Sevastopol” (voicesevas.ru) did not blame Ukraine. They have published several videos of the aftermath of the airstrike.

What about evidence?

Dmitry Tymchuk had said Ukraine Air Force did not fly because of the threat of losing more aircraft, after an AN-26 was shot on July 14. The same message was posted on Facebook by the ATO (the official website of the government’s Anti-Terrorist Operation against the pro-Russian separatists). As reported by Associated Press Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense stated none of their planes were on sorties at the time. So, officially they did not fly.

A rebel commander in Snizhne told Vice News the suggestion that explosives had been dropped by a Russian plane was a lie and part of the propaganda war. Russia would have no reason to bomb them. Vice believes Ukrainian forces may have misfired while wanting to hit a rebel base in the area. Commander Sergei told Associated Press reporters that the plane had Ukrainian markings.

According to an article in the New York Times later that month, a Russian airplane almost certainly could not have carried out the airstrike because of the angle of the damage.

“In one case, Ukraine claimed that Russia carried out an airstrike […] suggesting that a plane traveled from across the border, more than 12 miles to the south. But the angle of the 10 holes punched by the bombs and the direction of the damage indicated that the bomber was flying from west to east.” – New York Times

Could they have missed the target? If so, what could have been a target? In this video showing the damage, a resident says the closest checkpoint is at least 0.5 kilometer away (at 3:00 minutes).

I am still searching for the evidence that backs the claim that a bomber must have flown from west to east and will update when I have more information.


I’ve found an eyewitness account on a discussion forum (screenshot below).Snizhne eyewitness account

Updates (August 2015)

Journalist Anatoly Sharij has made a map based on eyewitness accounts. (Found on Korrespondent‘s blog) – I cannot translate the Russian text.


According to some sources the target was a bakery (at least, that’s how it is translated via Google).

“Eyewitness testimony is not direct evidence, neither in confirming that the suspect committed the crime, nor in denying that the suspect committed the crime”. Read more on the subject of evidence and opinions on Espresso with Pavel.


3 thoughts on “War in Ukraine | The July 15 Airstrike on Snizhne: Who to Blame?

  1. “If so, what could have been a target?”

    Maybe they were hunting a captured BUK in town to get gas. Ukraine does not want to admit it lost a BUK, rebels do not want to admit they have one, so its sits as a mystery.


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