Biden says missile that hit Poland probably not fired from Russia
Russia has established a pattern in recent weeks of launching massive strikes on Ukrainian cities
WARSAW (Reuters) - A missile that killed two people in Poland was unlikely to have been fired from Russia, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday, after the blast raised global alarm that the Ukraine conflict could spill into neighbouring countries.
NATO ambassadors were due to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to respond to the explosion at a grain dryer near the Ukrainian border, which occurred while Russia was firing scores of missiles at cities across Ukraine.
Kyiv says it shot down most of the incoming Russian missiles with its own air defence missiles. Ukraine’s Volyn region, just across the border from Poland, was one of the many it says was targeted by Russia’s attacks.
The Polish foreign ministry said the rocket fell on Przewodow, a village about 6 km (4 miles) from the border with Ukraine. Polish President Andrzej Duda told reporters that it was "most likely a Russian-made missile", but that there was no concrete evidence of who fired it.
Both Russia’s long-range missiles and the air defence missiles that Ukraine fired to shoot them down are Russian-made.
Asked whether it was too early to say if the missile was fired from Russia, Biden said: "There is preliminary information that contests that. I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate it, but it is unlikely in the lines of the trajectory that it was fired from Russia, but we’ll see."
The United States and NATO countries would fully investigate before acting, Biden said, speaking in Indonesia after meeting other Western leaders on the sidelines of a summit of the G20 big economies.
The Associated Press news agency, which had initially cited a senior U.S. intelligence official as saying Russian missiles had caused the blast in Poland, later quoted U.S. officials as saying initial findings were now that blast was caused by Ukrainian air defence missiles.
A resident who declined to be identified said the two victims were men who were near the weighing area of a grain facility.
Russia’s defence ministry denied that any Russian missiles had hit Polish territory, describing such reports as "a deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation".
"There is an attempt to provoke a direct military clash between NATO and Russia, with all the consequences for the world," Dmitry Polyansky, the head of the permanent mission of Russia to the United Nations, said on his Telegram channel.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, without providing evidence, that Russian missiles hit Poland in a "significant escalation" of the conflict.
"All of Europe and the world must be fully protected from terrorist Russia," he said in a tweet after a phone call with Poland’s President Duda.
RUSSIA ‘SQUARELY TO BLAME’
Some Western leaders said that whoever fired the missile, Russia was ultimately responsible.
"They stressed that, whatever the outcome of that investigation, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is squarely to blame for the ongoing violence," British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said after a meeting between Sunak and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Officials in Warsaw said NATO member Poland was likely to request a meeting of the Western military Alliance under Article 4, and also raise the issue at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
Article 4 of the NATO treaty requires members to consult if one of them believes its security is threatened, while Article 5 requires members to defend one another from attack.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland was increasing the readiness of some military units, and called on all Poles to remain calm.
Biden told Duda in a call that Washington has an "ironclad commitment to NATO" and will support Poland’s investigation, the White House said.
The explosion in Poland came as Russia pounded cities across Ukraine with missiles in what Kyiv called the heaviest strikes of the war so far, days after Moscow abandoned Kherson, the only Ukrainian regional capital it had captured since the start of the invasion.
Russia has established a pattern in recent weeks of launching massive strikes on Ukrainian cities to knock out their power after setbacks on the battlefield.
Leaders of the G20, which includes Russia but not Ukraine, issued a declaration on Wednesday saying they "deplore in the strongest terms" Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. It said most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine but added that there were other views within the group.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Kyiv had warned of the danger Russian missiles posed to neighbouring countries and called for a no-fly zone to be imposed.
"We were asking to close the sky, because sky has no borders. Not for uncontrolled missiles. Not for the threat they carry for our EU & NATO neighbours. Gloves are off. Time to win," he said in a Twitter post.