Polish and NATO leaders said a missile that killed two people on Polish soil on Tuesday may have been fired by Ukrainian forces defending their country from a Russian attack, and that the incident appeared to be an accident.
The explosion occurred outside the village outside the eastern Polish village of Przewodow, about four kilometers (6.4 miles) west of the Ukrainian border on Tuesday afternoon, almost at the same time as Russia began its biggest shelling attack on Ukrainian cities in more than a month.
On Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda told a press conference that there was a “high chance” it was an air defense missile on the Ukrainian side and that it may have fallen into Poland “accidentally” while intercepting incoming Russian missiles.
There is no indication that this was a deliberate attack on Poland. Most likely, it was a Russian-made S-300 rocket,” Duda said in a tweet early Wednesday.
Both the Russian and Ukrainian armies used Russian-made weapons during the war, including the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which Kyiv used as part of its air defense system.
The incident in Poland, a NATO country, prompted diplomats from the US-led 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 could not be blamed for defending their country from Russian aggression.
“Our initial analysis indicates that this incident may have been caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile fired to protect Ukrainian territory from Russian aggression,” Stoltenberg said. But let me make it clear, this is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears the ultimate responsibility, as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg also said there were no signs that Russia was planning to attack NATO countries, in comments that appeared to be aimed at easing tensions.
The news of this incident at night led to an operation thousands of kilometers away in Indonesia, where US President Joe Biden called an emergency meeting with world leaders to discuss the matter on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
The joint statement after the emergency meeting of the G20 was deliberately vague when it came to the incident, focusing more on the multiple strikes that took place in the hours before the missile landed in Poland.
Duda and Stoltenberg’s comments echo those of the two officials who briefed the US on the initial test, who told CNN that the missile appears to have been made in Russia and came from Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military told the US and allies that it had tried to intercept a Russian missile at the time and was near the site of a Polish missile strike, a US official told CNN. It is not clear if this air defense missile was the one that hit Poland, but this information has informed the ongoing US assessment of the strike.
The National Security Council said that the US has “full confidence” in the Polish investigation into the explosion and that “the party ultimately responsible for the incident” is Russia for its ongoing attacks.
The investigation into the area where the missile landed will continue to work in cooperation with the US, Polish President Duda said on Wednesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Ukrainian experts to be allowed into the area.
Zelensky said on Wednesday that he does not believe the missile was launched by his forces, and asked Ukrainian experts to play a role in the investigation. “I have no doubt that it was not our missile,” he told reporters in Kyiv.
Earlier on Wednesday, Zelensky’s adviser said that the incident was the result of Russian aggression, but he did not explicitly deny reports that the missile could have been launched from the side of Ukraine.
“Russia has turned the eastern part of the European continent into an unexpected battleground. The purpose, the methods of execution, the risk, the escalation – everything comes only from Russia,” said Mykhailo Podolyak in his statement to CNN.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force said on national television Wednesday that the military would “do everything” to facilitate the Polish investigation.
Earlier, Biden said that preliminary information suggests that it is unlikely that the missile that landed in Poland was fired by Russia, after consulting with allies at the G20 Summit in Bali.
“I don’t want to say that [it was fired from Russia] until we do a full investigation,” Biden continued. “It is impossible that it will be expelled from Russia. But we will see. ”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Russia had “no connection” to the missile incident in Poland, and that other leaders made the statement without understanding “what really happened.”
“The Poles have every opportunity to immediately report that they are talking about the destruction of the S-300 air defense missile system. And, ideally, all experts could understand that this could not be a missile that has any connection with the Russian Army,” Peskov said during a regular call with reporters.
“We saw another heated reaction from Russia, which was not based on any real evidence. High-ranking leaders of various countries spoke without a clue as to what had happened.”
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya blocked Peskov on Wednesday, rejecting claims from other members of the UN Security Council that Russia was ultimately responsible for the missile incident in Poland on Tuesday.
“We have long ceased to be surprised by your efforts, in any case or reason, to criticize Russia for everything,” said Nebenzya at a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNN that NATO partners should “keep a cool head” regarding the incident.
“I think we really have to keep a cool head, knowing that there could be a consequence, especially in these countries that are very close. [to Ukraine]”Kallas told CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour in an interview on Wednesday.
The incident comes after Russia launched 85 missiles on Tuesday in Ukraine, mainly targeting electrical infrastructure. The bombing caused a power outage in the city and knocked out power to 10 million people across the country. Power has already been restored to eight million customers, Zelensky later confirmed.
Ukrainians across the country are expected to face scheduled and unscheduled power cuts on Wednesday.