POLAND (AP) — NATO member Poland and the head of the military alliance both said Wednesday that a missile attack on Polish farmland appeared to be unintentional and could have been launched by air defenses in neighboring Ukraine. Russia bombed Ukraine’s power grid in an attack that destroyed it.
“Ukraine’s defense minister is firing their missiles in different directions, and one of those missiles may have unfortunately landed in Polish territory,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said. “There is nothing to suggest a deliberate attack on Poland.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the 30-nation military meeting. The alliance in Brussels echoed the preliminary Polish findings. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy disputed them and called for further investigations.
Assessments of Tuesday’s deadly missile landings appear to be in response to the possibility of another major escalation in the nearly nine-month-old Russian invasion.. If Russia targets Poland, This could risk drawing NATO into the conflict.
However, Stoltenberg and others did not entirely blame the war on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“This is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears the ultimate responsibility,” Stoltenberg said.
Zelenskyy told reporters he had “no doubts” about the report he received from his top commanders. Ukrainian officials should visit the site and join the investigation, he said.
“If, God forbid, some of the remnants (of Ukraine’s air defenses) killed one person.” “We want to apologize to these people, frankly,” he said. “But first we need an investigation, we need access, we want to get the data you have.”
He called the strike on Tuesday “a very significant escalation”.
Ahead of the assessments by Poland and NATO, US President Joe Biden said it was unlikely that Russia had launched the missile. He said he would make sure to find out exactly what happened.
A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow said there were no strikes on Tuesday against Russia closer than 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the Ukraine-Poland border. The Kremlin condemned the initial response of Poland and other countries and praised Biden’s “tougher and more professional response,” a rare compliment for a U.S. leader.
“We have seen a frenzied, hysterical Russo-phobic reaction that is not based on any facts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Late Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s ambassador to Moscow. The discussion lasted about 20 minutes.
The Polish president said the missile could be a Soviet-era Russian-made S-300. Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, has deployed Soviet and Russian-made weapons, and many Russian weapons have been seized in the Kremlin’s push back against invading forces.
Russia’s attack on power generation and transmission facilities on Tuesday also included Ukraine’s western border with Poland. Ukraine’s military said its air defenses shot down 77 of the more than 90 missiles it fired, along with 11 drones.
A nationwide bombardment by cruise missiles and drones has clouded the initial picture of what happened in Poland.
“A big bang, It sounds terrible.” Ewa Byra, director of a primary school in the eastern village of Przewodow, where the missile hit, said. I knew both of the victims, one was the husband of a school employee. Another was the father of a former student, she said.
Another resident, 24-year-old Kinga Kancir, said they work at a rice drying factory.
“It was very hard to accept,” she said. “Out of nothing, suddenly, a sense of the world arises.”
In Europe, NATO members called for a thorough investigation and criticized Moscow.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that “there would be no war with Russia without missiles being launched aggressively and massively at Ukrainian infrastructure.”
Ukraine was powerless after the airstrikes. Zelenskyy said 10 million people had lost power, but 8 million were later reconnected, tweeting overnight. Previous attacks have already destroyed about 40 percent of the country’s energy infrastructure.
Ukraine said the bombing was the largest on its power grid.
A think tank at the Washington-based Institute for Military Studies said Tuesday’s downing of several Russian missiles illustrated an improvement over the past month in Ukraine’s air defenses, which have been bolstered by Western-sponsored systems. Sweden said on Wednesday that an air defense system with munitions would be worth $360 million as part of its latest and largest military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine.
The United States is Ukraine’s largest supporter, providing $18.6 billion in weapons and equipment. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said arms and aid would continue to flow throughout the winter to help Ukraine consolidate gains and retain the initiative on the battlefield.
Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his efforts to speak with his Russian foreign minister on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Milley did not elaborate on the effort, but the lack of conversation amid questions about whether Russia attacked a NATO ally has raised concerns about high-level U.S.-Russian relations amid the crisis.
At the United Nations, The UN said the rocket fire in Poland was a “terrible reminder” of the need to prevent further escalation of the war.
As long as the fighting continues, Rosemary DiCarlo warned the UN Security Council that “the risks of a potentially catastrophic spill are real.”
Russia’s strikes followed days of euphoria stemming from last week’s recapture of Kherson in southern Ukraine, one of its biggest military successes in Ukraine.
With its battlefield losses mounting, Russia has increasingly taken steps to target Ukraine’s power grid as winter approaches.
At least six civilians have been killed and 17 wounded in Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, senior official Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Wednesday.
Lviv Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said two of the three Russian missiles hit critical energy infrastructure in the western province. About 95 percent of the state’s power has been restored, but only 30 percent of customers have access to power at the same time, he said.
Train delays due to the power outage continued into Wednesday, but there were no cancellations. This is because diesel locomotives have been pushed into service, railway officials said.
Kyiv resident Margina Daria said Tuesday’s strike disrupted cell phone service in her area.
“We had to adjust to a life without light because we had scheduled blackouts every day, but it was quite annoying without communication,” she said. “There’s no way to even say that our families are okay.”
AP reporters Vanessa Gera and Monika Scislowska in Warsaw. Lorne Cook in Brussels; Ukraine John Leicester in Kyiv; Estonia Yuras Karmanau Indonesia in Tallinn; Michael Balsamo and Lolita Baldor in Zeke Miller Washington in Nusa Dua; Elise Morton in London; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; and contributed by James LaPorta in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine