Poland and NATO leaders said the missile that killed two people in Polish territory on Tuesday was likely fired by Ukrainian forces defending their country against a spate of Russian attacks and that the incident appeared to be an accident.
The blast occurred Tuesday afternoon outside the rural eastern Polish village of Przewodow, about 4 miles west of the Ukrainian border, around the same time Russia launched its biggest wave of rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities in more than a month.
On Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda told a news conference there was a “high chance” that it was an air defense missile belonging to the Ukrainian side, which probably fell in an “accident” in Poland when it intercepted incoming Russian missiles.
“There is no indication that this was a deliberate attack on Poland. Most likely it was a Russian-made S-300 missile,” Duda said in a tweet earlier Wednesday.
Both Russian and Ukrainian forces used Russian-made munitions during the conflict, including the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which Kyiv deployed as part of its air defenses.
The incident in Poland, a NATO country, prompted ambassadors from the US-led military alliance to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said there was no indication that the incident was the result of a deliberate attack by either side and that Ukrainian forces were not to blame for defending their country against Russia’s attack.
“Our preliminary analysis suggests that the incident was likely caused by the Ukrainian air defense missile launched to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks,” Stoltenberg said. “But let me be clear, this is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg also said there was no sign Russia was planning to attack NATO countries, in comments apparently aimed at defusing escalating tensions.
News of the incident sparked a flurry of activity in Indonesia overnight, where US President Joe Biden called an emergency meeting with some world leaders to discuss the matter on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
A joint statement after the emergency meeting at the G20 was deliberately ambiguous about the incident and focused much more on the dozens of strikes that took place in Poland in the hours before the missile hit.
Duda and Stoltenberg’s comments echo those of two officials briefed on initial US assessments, who told CNN it appears the missile was made in Russia and originated in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military told the US and allies it was attempting to intercept a Russian missile during the period and near the site of the Polish missile attack, a US official told CNN. It is not clear that this air defense missile is the same missile that hit Poland, but this information has influenced the ongoing US assessment of the attack.
The National Security Council said the US has “complete confidence” in Poland’s investigation into the blast and that the “ultimately responsible party” for the incident is Russia for its ongoing invasion.
Investigating the site where the missile landed will continue to be a joint operation with the US, Polish President Duda said on Wednesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded that Ukrainian experts be allowed to enter the site.
Zelenskyy said on Wednesday he did not believe the missile was fired by his forces and called on Ukrainian experts to get involved in the investigation. “I have no doubt that it wasn’t our missile,” he told reporters in Kyiv.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Zelenskyi aide said the incident was a result of Russian aggression but did not specifically deny reports that the missile may have been fired by the Ukrainian side.
“Russia has turned the eastern part of the European continent into an unpredictable battlefield. Intent, means of execution, risks, escalation – everything comes from Russia alone,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a statement to CNN.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force said on national television on Wednesday that the military would “do everything” to facilitate the Polish investigation.
Earlier, after consulting with allies at the G20 summit in Bali, Biden said preliminary information indicated the missile, which landed in Poland, was unlikely to have been launched from Russia.
“I don’t want to say that [it was fired from Russia] until we fully investigate it,” Biden continued. “It is unlikely, according to the trajectory, that it was fired from Russia. But we will see.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Russia had “no relation” to the missile incident in Poland and that some leaders had made statements without understanding “what actually happened”.
“The Poles had every opportunity to immediately report that they were talking about the wreckage of the S-300 air defense system missile. And accordingly, all experts would have understood that this cannot be a missile that has any relation to the Russian armed forces,” Peskov said during a regular conversation with journalists.
“We witnessed another hysterical, insane Russophobic reaction that was not based on any real evidence. Senior leaders of various countries have made statements without knowing what actually happened.”
Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya echoed Peskov on Wednesday, dismissing claims by other UN Security Council members that Russia was ultimately responsible for Tuesday’s missile attack in Poland.
“We are no longer surprised by your attempts, under all circumstances, to blame Russia for everything, despite all the facts or common sense,” Nebenzya said during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNN NATO allies needed to “keep a cool head” in the face of the incident.
“I think we really need to keep our cool as we know there could be a spillover effect, particularly to the countries that are very close to us [to Ukraine]Kallas said Wednesday in an interview with CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour.
The incident comes after Russia fired a barrage of 85 missiles into Ukraine on Tuesday, mostly targeting energy infrastructure. The bombardment caused power outages in cities and knocked out electricity for 10 million people nationwide. Since then, eight million consumers have been supplied with electricity again, Zelensky later confirmed.
Ukrainians across the country were expected to face more planned and unplanned power outages on Wednesday.