Przewodów Incident Analysis
An analysis of the publicly available evidence where I will attempt to answer some common questions about the incident and point to what I consider the most likely explination.
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At 15:40 local time on November 15th 2022, a missile of currently unknown origin struck a grain drying yard yard killing two Polish citizens. The grain drying yard is located in the village of Przewodów approximately 8.5km from the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Latest reports from both Polish authorities and NATO have stated that they cannot cannot confirm the exact origin of the missile, but that the most likely scenario is a Ukrainian air defense missile which accidentally went astray.
In this article, I will take a detailed look at all the publicly available evidence and attempt to answer several of the questions currently surrounding the incident.
The first question is that of the identification of the missile that struck Przewodów. Officially, there has been no report of the type of missile except for the statements by Polish authorities that it was “Russian-made” and that it is likely a Ukrainian air defense missile.
Within hours of the explosion, the first images of the site began being shared across social media. Several of these images contained close ups of missile debris from the site. One of these fragments was rapidly identified by several OSINT accounts as appearing to come from the rocket engine of a 5V55 air defense missile.
Overlaying this piece of debris onto an image of a known expended rocket engine from a 5V55 rocket engine that had previously been photographed shows a very close match. Due to only having a single image from a single angle in poor lighting conditions of the debris from Przewodów, it is impossible to confirm the identification from this single piece of debris.
The following day, another image of the impact site surfaced. This image showed two further identifiable pieces of debris located at the impact site. These two pieces of debris can be identified as components from a 5V55 air defense missile. A comparison of these pieces of debris with reference photos from known 5V55 debris from previous launches during the war can be seen in the image below.
As a result of the evidence above, it is is highly likely that the missile that impacted in Przewodów was a 5V55 air defense missile. There is no available evidence that points towards any other type of missile having impacted at the grain drying yard, including all Russian cruise missile types.
Crater size and lack of fragmentation damage
A 5V55 air defense missile has a 100-133kg warhead containing approximately between 20,000 and 35,000 metal fragments depending on the exact variant. After the initial photograph from the impact site was released, many argued that the size of the crater was too large to have been the result of a 5V55 missile and that there was a distinct lack of fragmentation damage to the grain trailer from the warhead.
As additional photographic evidence has come to light, I believe that both these questions can be answered by the location of the impact. The missile impacted directly next to a pit type weighbridge which contains a large dug out pit. Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza took a large number of photographs of the impact site after Polish investigators had finished excavating the site in their search for evidence. In the images below, I have used some of these photographs to illustrate the concrete foundation of this pit prior to the missile impact. These illustrations show that a large portion of the initial crater was the result of dirt and debris being blown into the pit, thus giving the indication of a much larger crater. Had the missile impacted elsewhere, the crater would have been much smaller.
This illustration also helps to explain why the trailer did not sustain significant fragmentation damage, if the warhead detonated as the missile impacted the ground. At the speed at which the missile would have travel at the time of impact, it would have entered the ground slightly prior to detonation. Due the proximity to the concrete wall lining the edge of the pit, almost all of the metal fragments would have impacted the wall, effectively shielding the trailer parked on top of the weighbridge. The force of the detonation destroying the concrete wall is also likely what caused the trailer to tip to the left and fall over.
The origin of the missile has still not been established, though official statements point to it being a Ukrainian air defense missile.
From the images of the impact site we can see that the missile impacted possibly as close as half a meter to the west of the grain trailer parked on the weighbridge. Trailers of the type at the impact site are usually approximately 2-2.3 meters in height. As it appears that the missile may have missed the trailer and impacted directly beside it, this would require the missile to have come in at a steep approximately 70° angle if it came came from the east. This would make sense, as after missing its target the 5V55 would have continued in a ballistic trajectory if its warhead self-destruct system failed.
There is a theory going around stating that the missile may have been a Russian 5V55 converted to a surface attack role. This is something that Russia has previously done, but at this time there is no publicly available evidence to back this theory up or completely debunk it. The two main pieces of evidence pointing against this theory at this time are:
1. There were no reports of S-300 missile launches from Belarus on the day of the attack. Reports of missile launches from Belarus are usually very accurate and this time there is no indication of any. At the same time, there has been no evidence of other S-300 missiles launched from Belarus towards Ukraine on the day of the attack. All evidence suggests the attacks were carried out using various cruise missiles and drones. That would mean that a single S-300 converted to a surface attack role was launched, which seems very unlikely.
2. Polish and NATO statements indicate that it was very likely a Ukrainian air defense missile. At the time of the attack three KC-135 Stratotankers were visible on ASB-D Exchange flying over Eastern Poland. The aircraft that these were supporting were not visible, but are likely F-35 performing the ongoing Combat Air Patrol over Poland. The radar systems on these aircraft are likely to be the NATO aircraft which officials have confirmed tracked the missile prior to impact. These would have been able to get a rough sense of where the missiles were launched from as a S-300 converted to a surface attack role is in essence a quasi-ballistic missile.
At this time it is very likely that the missile that impacted the grain drying yard in Przewodów killing two Polish citizens was an errant Ukrainian 5V55 air defense missile attempting to intercept a Russian cruise missile. The publicly available information at this time is not sufficient to make a concrete conclusion, the above is the most likely scenario.
Polish investigators will have a large amount of evidence not available to the public and should be able to make a firm conclusion soon. They will have in their possession missile fragments that will be able to confirm the identity of the missile, as well as potential warhead fragments that can determine if the missile a Ukrainian 5V55 or a Russian 5V55 converted to a surface attack role. Additionally they will be in possession of NATO radar tracking data that may be able to establish the direction of the missile origin.
Hopefully we will soon get further official statements that reveal the details of what exactly happened.
a) what evidence gives that it was an accident by ukrainian air defense? i haven't seen or heard of a single one, it's just a word, that is always inserted into any statements about the ukrainian missile landing in poland without ever giving any clue to support this.
b) you claim to be an osint specialist. you know what is also osint? the coordinates (longitude, latitude) of the impact site. same goes for the coordinates of lviv and kyev. and guess what, the impact site has exactly the same longitude coordinates as lviv and exactly the same latitude coordinates as kyev, not just nearby or of a suburb, but both directly of the urban area of these 2 main ukrainian cities. no way, that that's some crazy coincidence, just no way. unfortunately, the missile wasn't fired by the russians, as that could have explained this coordinates anomaly with a mix-up when typing in the target coordinates. you're a smart guy, please use your brain and figure out, how this coordinates thing goes together with the fact, that the missile hitting the spot with those funny coordinates in poland, was fired by ukraine. i've come up with only one possible explanation.
IIRC, US anonymous sources first briefly pushed the idea that it was Russian.