Investigators gather near fragments of a munition in the Grodno region, Belarus Investigators gather near fragments of a munition in the Grodno region, Belarus 

Belarus blames Ukraine of firing missile as war escalates

Belarus has accused neighboring Ukraine of firing an air defense missile into Belarusian territory. The incident raised concerns as Belarus is a close ally of Russia, which invaded Ukraine earlier this year.

By Stefan J. Bos  

Belarus has confirmed that it summoned Ukraine's ambassador after shooting down a Ukrainian missile over Belarusian territory. The defense ministry in Belarus said the S-300 air defense missile was downed over the village of Gorbakha in the Brest region north of Ukraine.

Footage appeared to show missile wreckage found in an agricultural field near the village located around 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

There were no reports of causalities. But a witness here said, "windows were shaking, and the house was vibrating" from what must have been a sound wave.

The military commissar of the Belarus Brest region, Oleg Konovalov, said his forces detected the missile early Thursday.

Konovalov says his forces witnessed an apparently S-300 air defense missile of the Ukrainian armed forces. He compares the incident to the one last month "when a missile fell down in Poland," killing two people.

The Ukrainian military acknowledged the incident but said it was "the result of air defense."

Heavy bombardments

The missile came during one of Russia's heaviest bombardments against Ukraine so far.

Russia has expressed concern and condemned Ukraine's rocket strike. But Ukraine did not rule out a "deliberate provocation" in which Moscow launched cruise missiles on a path that would be intercepted over Belarusian territory.

Kyiv said it had "the unconditional right to the defense and protection of its own sky" and urged independent experts to investigate.

However, the missile incident over Belarus was not a complete surprise: Belarus allowed Russia to use its territory and military bases to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February and other attacks.

Yet the incident was due to raise concerns that Belarus may become even more actively involved in Europe's most significant armed conflict since World War Two.

Ukrainian officials recently claimed that Russia could be planning a new offensive from Belarus, but Western governments said they did not yet see evidence of that.

However, as the war escalated, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that most regions in his nation were without power in freezing conditions after Thursday's Russian missile strikes. Moscow fired scores of missiles at cities across Ukraine on Thursday, including in the capital Kyiv, as well as Kharkiv, Lviv, and Odesa.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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30 December 2022, 17:07