Poland says no evidence to suggest missile was launched by Russia – but Kyiv insists ‘it was not our rocket’
Ukraine’s air defence was probably responsible for a blast that killed two people in south-eastern Poland, the Polish president has said, while Nato said Russia was ultimately to blame as Moscow had started the war and launched the attack that triggered Kyiv’s defences.
While fears eased of a dangerous escalation in the war, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, insisted on Wednesday he had “no doubt” the missile concerned was not Ukrainian.
Hours after the US president, Joe Biden, said it was unlikely the missile had been fired from Russia, Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, said that from the information Warsaw had, the missile was “an S-300 rocket made in the Soviet Union, an old rocket, and there is no evidence it was launched by the Russian side”.
He added that it was “highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence” and “unfortunately fell on Polish territory”.
Nato’s secretary general also confirmed that while an investigation was under way, initial analysis suggested the incident was “likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory” against Russian cruise missile attacks.
“Let me be clear: this is not Ukraine’s fault,” Jens Stoltenberg said after an emergency meeting of alliance ambassadors in Brussels. “Russia bears the ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”
But he said there was “no indication” that the missile was the result of a deliberate attack or that Russia was preparing offensive military actions against Nato. Based on the preliminary analysis, there had been “no call for Nato article 4”, he added.
Zelenskiy, however, was quoted by the Interfax Ukraine news agency as saying he had “no doubt it was not our missile”. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, meanwhile said the incident could in any case have been the result of Russian provocation, telling the Polish parliament Warsaw “cannot rule out” that Russian attacks near Ukraine’s border with Poland were “an intentional provocation done in the hope that such a situation could arise”.
Morawiecki said Warsaw was still deciding whether to trigger article 4, which allows a Nato member to call a meeting if it feels its territory or security is threatened, but it seemed the step “may not be necessary”.
The missile landed on a grain dryer in the village of Przewodów, four miles from the border with Ukraine, the first time the territory of a Nato member country had been struck in the almost nine months of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Ukraine had requested “immediate access” to the site, said Oleksiy Danilov, a senior defence official, adding that Kyiv expected its allies to provide the evidence on which they based their view that the incident was caused by Ukraine’s air defences. Warsaw said both Poland and the US would have to agree to any such move.
The explosion initially raised global alarm that the war could spill into neighbouring countries, but after an emergency meeting of western leaders at the G20 summit in Bali, the US president, Joe Biden, said the missile was probably not fired from Russia.
Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda, called on Nato to deploy more air defences on the Polish-Ukrainian border and the rest of the alliance’s eastern flank. “The situation confirms that is the right decision and needs swift implementation,” he said.
A German government spokesperson, however, rejected the idea of a no-fly zone, arguing it would risk “further escalation” and direct confrontation between Russia and Nato. The defence ministry said Berlin would offer support to Polish air defence.
Russia, which on Tuesday unleashed a wave of missiles targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure, said the explosion was caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile. Its strikes had been no closer than 35km (22 miles) from the Polish border, it said.
According to the defence ministry, images of the incident had been “unmistakably identified by Russian defense industry specialists as components of an anti-aircraft guided missile of the S-300 air defense system of the Ukrainian air force.”
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, claimed that a number of nations, including Poland, had made “baseless statements” about Russia’s involvement in “another hysterical, frenzied Russophobic reaction” without knowing what had actually occurred.
There was “never a need to rush to judgment, with statements that can escalate the situation,” Peskov said of the response. He commended Biden for exercising “restraint” in the wake of the explosion.
Zelenskiy attributed the explosion to “Russian missile terror” in a tweet that was sent out shortly after the incident. The Ukrainian president’s top adviser also reaffirmed that Russia was to blame for any “incidents with missiles.”
According to Mykhailo Podolyak, “there is only one logic. Russia initiated and is waging the conflict. Russia launches numerous cruise missile attacks against Ukraine. Russia alone is responsible for the escalation, risks, and means of execution. Additionally, there is no other explanation for any missile incidents.
James Cleverly, the British foreign secretary, stated that the UK would reserve final judgment until the results of the thorough investigation were known.
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, told journalists that the international community was attempting “to establish the facts.” However, it is obvious that yesterday’s missile activity was caused by Russia’s over 80 missile launches into Ukraine.