Przewodow, November 16: NATO member Poland and the head of the military alliance both said Wednesday a missile strike in Polish farmland that killed two people did not appear to be an intentional attack, and that air defences in neighbouring Ukraine likely launched the Soviet-era projectile against a Russian bombardment that savaged the Ukrainian power grid.
“Ukraine’s defense was launching their missiles in various directions and it is highly probable that one of these missiles unfortunately fell on Polish territory,” said Polish President Andrzej Duda. “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest that it was an intentional attack on Poland.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, at a meeting of the 30-nation military alliance in Brussels, echoed the preliminary Polish findings, saying: “We have no indication that this was the result of a deliberate attack.”
The initial assessments of Tuesday’s deadly missile landing appeared to dial back the likelihood of the strike triggering another major escalation in the nearly nine-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine. If Russia had deliberately targeted Poland, that could have risked drawing NATO into the conflict.
Still, Stoltenberg and others laid overall but not specific blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.
“This is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility,” Stoltenberg said.
Before the Polish and NATO assessments, U.S. President Joe Biden had said it was “unlikely” that Russia fired the missile but added: “I’m going to make sure we find out exactly what happened.”
Three U.S. officials said preliminary assessments suggested it was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian one. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
That assessment and Biden’s comments at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia contradicted information earlier Tuesday from a senior U.S. intelligence official who told The Associated Press that Russian missiles crossed into Poland.
Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, fields Soviet- and Russian-made weaponry, including air-defence missiles, and has also seized many more Russian weapons while beating back the Kremlin’s invasion forces.
Ukrainian air defences worked furiously against the Russian assault Tuesday on power generation and transmission facilities, including in Ukraine’s western region that borders Poland. Ukraine’s military said 77 of the more than 90 missiles fired were brought down, along with 11 drones.
Russia said it didn’t launch the missile that landed in Poland. A Defence Ministry spokesman said no Russian strike Tuesday was closer than 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the Ukraine-Poland border. The Kremlin denounced Poland’s and other countries’ initial response and, in rare praise for a U.S. leader, hailed Biden’s “restrained, much more professional reaction.”