Poland, NATO say missile strike wasn’t a Russian attack

NATO member Poland and the head of the military alliance both said on Wednesday that a missile attack on Polish farmland that killed two people did not appear to be a deliberate attack and that air defenses in neighboring Ukraine may have fired Soviet-era artillery to counter Russian bombing damage to Ukraine power grid.

“Ukraine’s defense consists of firing missiles in every direction, one of which will unfortunately land on Polish territory,” said Polish President Andrzej Duda. “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest that this is an attack on Poland deliberate attack.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, 30-nation military meeting The Brussels-based coalition echoed Poland’s initial findings, saying: “We have no indication that this was the result of a deliberate attack.”

Preliminary assessments of Tuesday’s deadly missile landing appeared to reduce the chances of the attack triggering another major escalation in recent years. 9-month-old Russian invades Ukraine. If Russia deliberately targets Poland, it risks drawing NATO into the conflict.

Still, Stoltenberg and others have pinned the blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war, but not specifically.

“It’s not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility,” Stoltenberg said.

Ahead of the Polish and NATO assessment, U.S. President Joe Biden had said it was “unlikely” a Russian missile launch, but added: “I’m going to make sure we find out what happened.”

Three U.S. officials said initial assessments indicated it was fired by Ukrainian forces at an invading Russian military aircraft. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

That assessment and Biden’s comments at the G-20 summit in Indonesia contradicted what a top U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press earlier Tuesday that Russian missiles had entered Poland.

Once part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has Soviet and Russian-made weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, and has seized more Russian weapons while repelling the Kremlin’s invading forces.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian air defenses lashed out at Russian attacks on power generation and transmission facilities, including in western Ukraine on the border with Poland. The Ukrainian military said 77 of the more than 90 missiles fired were shot down, along with 11 drones.

Russia said it did not fire the missile that landed in Poland. A Defense Ministry spokesman said the Russian strikes on Tuesday were within 35 kilometers (22 miles) of the Ukrainian-Polish border. The Kremlin condemned the initial reaction of Poland and others and offered rare praise for a U.S. leader, praising Biden’s “restrained, more professional response.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We are witnessing another hysterical, frenzied, Russia-hating reaction that is not based on any real data.”

Still, on Tuesday, Ukraine came under a nationwide bombardment of cruise missiles and exploding drones from Russia, clouding the initial picture of exactly what happened in Poland and why.

Poland’s president said the projectile was “likely” a Russian-made Soviet-era S-300 missile.

“It was a huge explosion and the sound was horrible,” said Ewa Byra, the primary school principal in Przewodow, the eastern village where the missile hit. She said she knew the two men who were killed — the husband of a school employee and the father of a former student.

Another resident, Kinga Kancir, 24, said the men worked at a grain drying facility, one as a guard and the other as a tractor driver.

“It’s hard to accept,” she said. “Nothing happened, and all of a sudden, the world exploded.”

Ukraine expressed its desire to have immediate access to the website. The head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov advocated a “joint investigation into this incident” on Twitter.

In Europe, NATO members Germany and Britain criticized Moscow while calling for a thorough investigation.

“This would not have happened without Russia’s war on Ukraine, without the missiles that are now being fired at Ukrainian infrastructure densely and on a massive scale,” German Chancellor Olaf Schulz said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This is the brutal reality of Putin’s war.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called it “a very significant escalation”. China, on the other hand, called for calm and restraint.

The airstrikes have caused widespread damage in Ukraine, with power cuts to large swathes of the country. About 10 million people lost power, Zelensky said, but tweeted overnight that 8 million people were then reconnected, with maintenance crews working through the night. Previous Russian attacks have knocked out about 40 percent of the country’s energy infrastructure.

Ukraine said the bombing was the largest hit to date on its power grid. Pope Francis said it had caused him “great pain and concern”.

The Washington-based think tank Institute for War Research said Ukraine’s downing of so many Russian missiles on Tuesday “illustrates improvements over the last month” in Ukraine’s air defenses, which are backed up by Western-supplied systems. Sweden said on Wednesday that an air defense system armed with ammunition would be part of its latest and largest military and humanitarian aid package to Ukraine, worth $360 million.

The United States has been Ukraine’s biggest supporter, providing $18.6 billion in weapons and equipment. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. weapons and aid would continue “throughout the winter” so that Ukraine could continue to build on its gains and seize the initiative on the battlefield.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official, said the Russian attack on Tuesday killed at least six civilians and wounded 17 others. In the Kyiv region, a missile attack killed a 69-year-old woman while visiting her husband’s grave at a cemetery, the regional police chief said. In central Kyiv, a woman died in one of two damaged residential buildings, the mayor said.

The Russian shelling came after days of frenzy in Ukraine over one of its biggest military achievements, the retake of the southern city of Kherson last week.

it is also Affected neighboring Moldova. It reported a massive blackout after an airstrike in Ukraine knocked down power lines to the tiny country.

As battlefield losses mount, Russia is increasingly targeting Ukraine’s power grid, seemingly hoping to turn the onset of winter into a weapon by keeping people cold and dark.

—Vasilisa Stepanenko, Associated Press

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