Dec 29 (Reuters) – Belarus protested to Ukraine’s ambassador on Thursday after he said it shot down a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile in a field, in one of the heaviest airstrikes of Russia against Ukraine since the beginning of the war.
Brest region military commissar Oleg Konovalov downplayed the incident in a video posted on social media by state-run news agency BelTA, saying residents had “absolutely nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, these things happen”.
He compared the incident to one in November, when an S-300 believed to have gone astray after being fired upon by Ukrainian air defenses landed in the territory of NATO member Poland, sparking fears of escalation that were quickly defused.
Nevertheless, the Ukrainian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Minsk to receive an official protest.
“The Belarusian side considers this incident extremely serious,” spokesman Anatoly Glaz said.
“We demanded that the Ukrainian side carry out a thorough investigation, (…) hold those responsible accountable and take comprehensive measures to prevent such incidents from happening again in the future.”
A spokesperson for the Ukrainian military indeed acknowledged that the missile was a Ukrainian parasite, saying the incident was “nothing strange, the result of air defense” and something that “has happened produced more than once”.
The S-300 is a Soviet-era air defense system used by both Russia and Ukraine.
Belarus said the missile fell near the village of Harbacha in the Brest region, about 15 km from the border with Ukraine, around 10 a.m. (0700 GMT).
“Fragments were found in an agricultural field…the wreckage belongs to an S-300 anti-aircraft guided missile fired from Ukrainian territory,” the defense ministry said.
The incident came as Russia launched its latest wave of missile attacks on cities across Ukraine.
BelTA released photos and video of what it said were parts of an S-300 missile lying in an empty field.
Belarus allowed Moscow to use its territory in February as a launching pad for the invasion of Ukraine, and there has been a growing wave of Russian and Belarusian military activity in Belarus in recent months.
Minsk, however, has insisted that it is not participating in the war and will not participate unless its own security is threatened by Ukraine or Ukraine’s Western allies.
While Kyiv used the S-300 system to intercept incoming Russian missiles, Russia appeared to use repurposed S-300 missiles to attack ground targets.
Reuters reporting; Written by Jake Cordell; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Emelia Sithole-Matarise
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