Nato has said there is no indication a missile strike which killed two people in Poland was a “deliberate attack”. Nato chief Jen Stoltenberg has suggested it was fired by Ukraine while defending itself against a barrage of Russian weapons.
An emergency meeting had been called over a missile strike which landed in Poland killing two people. It came amid a barrage of Russian air strikes across Ukraine has prompted questions over where it came from.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg arranged the meeting of the alliance’s envoys in Brussels, and the UN Security Council plans to meet later for a previously scheduled briefing on the situation in Ukraine.
Both Ukriane and Russia had pointed the finger at each other in the aftermath of the strike. While Poland and Nato have used language that suggested they were not treating the missile blast as an intentional Russian attack, with Nato calling it a “tragic incident”.
Rishi Sunak said the blame for a missile hitting a Polish village close to the Ukrainian border “belongs solely to Russia”, but acknowledged it is possible the explosion was caused by Ukrainian munitions deployed in self-defence.
However, Sunak said Ukraine could not be blamed for trying to defend itself from a “barrage” of missiles launched by Russia.
The Kremlin denounced some of the reaction to the incident as “hysterical” and, in rare praise for a US leader, hailed the “restrained and much more professional” reaction of Biden. But where did the missile come from, what had been said about it, and what has Nato said? This is what you need to know.
What was said about where the missile came from?
Polish media said the strike hit an area where grain was drying in Przewodow, a village near the border with Ukraine. The strike came as Russia pounded Ukraine’s energy facilities with its biggest barrage of missiles yet, striking targets across the country and causing widespread blackouts. Russia denied involvement, while Ukraine in the hours following the incident blamed Russia.
Nato: During an emergency meeting secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, said: “Yesterday’s explosion took place as Russia launched a massive wave of rocket attacks across Ukraine. Since the start of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, NATO has increased vigilance across our eastern flank. And we are monitoring the situation on a continuous basis.
“An investigation into this incident is ongoing, and we need to await its outcome. But we have no indication that this was the result of a deliberate attack. And we have no indication that Russia is preparing offensive military actions against NATO.
“Our preliminary analysis suggests that the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks.”
Speaking after a meeting of alliance ambassadors in Brussels, he added: “But let me be clear, this is not Ukraine’s fault. “Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”
Poland: President Andrzej Duda said the hit, which killed two people on Tuesday evening, was not an attack on his country by Russia and there is a “high probability” Ukrainian defence forces were involved. Duda said: “We have no proof at this point to suggest the missile was fired by the Russian side.
“Ukraine’s defence was launching their missiles in various directions and it is highly probable that one of these missiles unfortunately fell on Polish territory.
The US: Biden had said it was “unlikely” to have come from Russia. Three US officials said preliminary assessments suggested the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian one amid the targeting of Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure on Tuesday.
That assessment and Biden’s comments at the G20 summit in Indonesia contradict information earlier on Tuesday from a senior US intelligence official who told the Associated Press that Russian missiles had crossed into Poland.
Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky had condemned the attack as “a very significant escalation”, and blamed Russia. However, Russia denied any involvement in the Poland blast. After the Nato meeting Ukraine’s secretary of the national security and defence council, Oleskiy Danilov tweeted: “We advocate for a joint examination of the incident with the missile’s landing in Poland. We are ready to hand over evidence of the russian trace that we have.
“We are expecting information from our partners, based on which a conclusion was made that it’s a Ukrainian air defense missile.” He said in a follow up tweet that Ukraine was requesting “immediate access” to the explosion site for its representatives.
Russia: Russia had said it was likely the missile strike was caused by the Ukrainian air defence. The Russian Defence Ministry denied being behind “any strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border” and said in a statement that photos of purported damage “have nothing to do” with Russian weapons.
“We have witnessed another hysterical, frenzied, Russophobic reaction that was not based on any real data,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. He added that “immediately, all experts realised that it could not have been a missile linked to the Russian armed forces”.
What would a Russian missile strike on Poland have meant?
A deliberate attack on Poland, which is a Nato member, would have required a joint response by the alliance, raising the risk of war with Russia. However, the likely attribution of the hit to Ukrainian defence forces will ease some of the tensions which arose in its immediate aftermath.
Russia had fired more than 90 missiles and several attack drones at Ukraine on Tuesday, Ukraine’s General Staff said. Ukrainian forces shot down 77 missiles and 11 drones, it added.
The Ukrainian energy minister said the attack was “the most massive” bombardment of power facilities in the nearly nine-month-old invasion, striking power generation and transmission systems. The assault killed at least one person in a residential building in Kyiv.