US declines to comment on reports missile that hit Poland was fired by Ukraine
A spokesperson with the US National Security Council has declined to comment on reports the “Russian-made missile” that stuck eastern Poland killing two people was fired by Ukrainian forces, trying to intercept a Russian attack.
“We have no comment and will not be confirming this report. As the President said today, we support Poland’s ongoing investigation to figure out exactly what happened,” the spokesman said.
The missile landed outside the rural Polish village of Przewodow, about four miles (6.4 kilometers) west from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday afternoon, roughly the same time as Russia launched its biggest wave of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities in more than a month.
The exact circumstances surrounding the incident, which marks the first time a NATO country has been directly struck during the almost nine-month conflict, remain unclear, though the Polish Foreign Ministry has described the missile as “Russian-made.”
Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have used Russian-made munitions during the conflict, with Ukraine deploying Russian-made missiles as part of its air defense system. These older-generation weapons systems date back to the period when both Russia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union.
Speaking to reporters after holding an emergency meeting with G7 and NATO leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said preliminary information suggested it was “unlikely” the missile was fired from Russia, but was unable to say conclusively until the investigation was complete.
“I don’t want to say that [it was fired from Russia] until we completely investigate,” Biden went on. “It’s unlikely in the minds of the trajectory that it was fired from Russia. But we’ll see.”
“We agreed to support Poland’s investigation into the explosion … And I’m going to make sure we figure out exactly what happened,” Biden said, adding the leaders offered sympathy over the death of two people. “Then we’re going to collectively determine our next step as we investigate and proceed. There was total unanimity among the folks at the table,” he added.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that three US officials said preliminary assessments suggested the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces in an attempt to intercept an incoming Russian strike. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, according to the AP.
Following Biden’s statement Tuesday, a NATO military official told CNN the missile had been tracked by an alliance aircraft flying above Polish airspace at the time of the blast.
“Intel with the radar tracks [of the missile] was provided to NATO and Poland,” the NATO military official added. The NATO official did not say who launched the missile, or where it was fired from.
In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not explicitly deny the AP report.
“There is only one logic to be followed,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Office of the Ukrainian President, said. “The war was started and is being waged by Russia. Russia is massively attacking Ukraine with cruise missiles. Russia has turned the eastern part of the European continent into an unpredictable battlefield. Intent, means of execution, risks, escalation – it is all coming from Russia alone.”
“And there can be no other explanation for any missile incident here. So when an aggressor country launches a deliberate, massive missile strike against a large country on the European continent with its obsolete Soviet-era weapons (Kh -class missiles), tragedy sooner or later occurs on the territories of other states as well.”
Russian missile attacks on Tuesday targeted Ukraine’s power infrastructure in several regions of the country, leaving more than seven million without power and the supply of electricity in a critical condition, according to senior Ukrainian officials.
CNN has reached out to NATO about the AP report, but has not yet heard back.
In a statement Wednesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the missile strike within Poland’s borders on Tuesday “would not have happened without Russia’s horrific missile attacks against Ukraine.”
“The G7 and present NATO members convened a meeting this morning in Bali during the G20 to discuss the incident in Poland last night. We are united in our message that we first need to establish the facts and therefore support Poland’s investigation,” Rutte said.
In comments earlier Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda noted that while it was not clear who launched the missile, it was “most likely” made in Russia. “We are working calmly and in a very calm manner,” Duda said during an address from the Bureau of National Security in Warsaw.
Whatever the outcome of the Polish-led investigation, the incident has reinforced longstanding concerns related to the risk of battlefield miscalculation triggering NATO-Russian conflict.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in the explosion, with Russia’s Defense Ministry calling the reports by Polish media, who first reported the deaths,”a deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation,” according to a short statement late Tuesday.
It added that the photos of wreckage published by Polish media “from the scene in the village of Przewodow have nothing to do with Russian weapons.”
The Russian mission at the United Nations on Wednesday said “the incident in Poland is an attempt to provoke a direct military clash between NATO and Russia,” adding the incident would be the focus of attention at the UN Security Council meeting later in the day.