(Reuters) -Belarus’ defence ministry said its air defences had downed a Ukrainian S-300 missile in a field on Thursday morning, during one of Russia’s largest missile attacks against Ukraine since the start of the war.
The military commissar of the Brest region, Oleg Konovalov, played the incident down in a video message posted on social media by the state-run BelTA news agency, saying that local 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 strayed after being fired by Ukrainian air defences landed in NATO-member Poland, and initial fears of an escalation in the war were rapidly defused.
The S-300 is a Soviet-era air defence system that is used by both Russia and Ukraine.
The Belarus ministry said on Thursday it had shot down the missile near the village of Harbacha in the Brest region, some 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Ukraine, at around 10 a.m. (0700 GMT).
“Fragments were found in an agricultural field … During the verification process, it was established that the wreckage belongs to an S-300 anti-aircraft guided missile fired from the territory of Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement.
The incident occurred at the same time Russia was launching its latest wave of missile attacks on cities across Ukraine.
BelTA published photos and video of what it said were parts of an S-300 missile lying in an empty agricultural field.
The defence ministry did not provide any information about casualties, and said it would provide more detailed information in the near future.
Belarus allowed Moscow to use its territory as a launchpad for the invasion of Ukraine in February, and there has been a growing flurry of Russian and Belarusian military activity in recent months.
Minsk has, however, 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.
Kyiv has used the S-300 system to intercept incoming Russian missiles, while Russia has appeared to use repurposed S-300 missiles to attack ground targets – something that military analysts say could be a sign that its missile stocks are dwindling.