Poland, NATO conclude deadly missile strike wasn’t a Russian attack

Poland, NATO conclude deadly missile strike wasn’t a Russian attack

Updated: 2 months, 12 days, 4 hours, 28 minutes, 0 seconds ago

Polish police officers search for missile wreckage in the field, near the place where a missile struck, killing two people in a farmland at the Polish village of Przewodow, near the border with Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) Evgeniy Maloletka

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference at the NATO headquarters, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022 in Brussels. Ambassadors from the 30 NATO nations gathered in Brussels Wednesday for emergency talks after Poland said that a Russian-made missile fell on its territory, killing two people, and U.S. President Joe Biden and his allies promised support for the investigation into the incident. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys) Olivier Matthys

A police officers check documents at a checkpoint near the scene of a blast in Przewodow, Poland, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Poland said Wednesday that a Russian-made missile fell in the country’s east, though U.S. President Joe Biden said it was “unlikely” it was fired from Russia. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) Evgeniy Maloletka

Police officers check and secure an area outside a grain depot where, according to the Polish government, an explosion of a Russian-made missile killed people, in Przewodow, Poland, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Poland said Wednesday that a Russian-made missile fell in the country's east, killing a few people, though U.S. President Joe Biden said it was "unlikely" it was fired from Russia. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk) Michal Dyjuk

People collect water from a Dnipro river in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

People collect water from a Dnipro river in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

People charge their phones, try to connect to the internet and make phone calls, in central square in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

People charge their phones, try to connect to the internet and make phone calls, in central square in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to extinguish a fire at the scene of a Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Strikes hit residential buildings in the heart of Ukraine's capital Tuesday, authorities said. Further south, officials announced probes of alleged Russian abuses in the newly retaken city of Kherson, including torture sites and enforced disappearances and detentions. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko) Andrew Kravchenko

People receive humanitarian aid on central square in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

A woman kneels on the ground in front of passing Ukrainian Army car in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

People receive humanitarian aid on central square in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

A damaged building seen at the scene of Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Strikes hit residential buildings in the heart of Ukraine's capital Tuesday, authorities said. Further south, officials announced probes of alleged Russian abuses in the newly retaken city of Kherson, including torture sites and enforced disappearances and detentions. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko) Andrew Kravchenko

People charge their phones, try to connect to the internet and make phone calls, in central square in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Waves of Russian airstrikes rocked Ukraine on Tuesday, with authorities immediately announcing emergency blackouts after attacks from east to west on energy and other facilities knocked out power and, in the capital, struck residential buildings. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) Efrem Lukatsky

Windows of an apartment building are illuminated during a blackout in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko) Andrew Kravchenko

Police officers gather outside a grain depot in Przewodow, eastern Poland, on Tuesday Nov. 15, 2022 where the Polish Foreign Ministry said that a Russian-made missile fell and killed two people. The ministry said Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau summoned the Russian ambassador and "demanded immediate detailed explanations." (AP Photo) STR

Police officers gather outside a grain depot in Przewodow, eastern Poland, on Tuesday Nov. 15, 2022 where the Polish Foreign Ministry said that a Russian-made missile fell and killed two people. The ministry said Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau summoned the Russian ambassador and "demanded immediate detailed explanations." (AP Photo) STR

A police officer checks a vehicle outside a grain depot where, according to the Polish government, an explosion of a Russian-made missile killed people, in Przewodow, Poland, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Poland said Wednesday that a Russian-made missile fell in the country’s east, killing a few people, though U.S. President Joe Biden said it was “unlikely” it was fired from Russia. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk) Michal Dyjuk

Police officers work outside a grain depot where, according to the Polish government, an explosion of a Russian-made missile killed two people in Przewodow, Poland, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Poland said Wednesday that a Russian-made missile fell in the country’s east, killing two people, though U.S. President Joe Biden said it was "unlikely” it was fired from Russia. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk) Michal Dyjuk

A police officer stands at a checkpoint near the scene of a blast in Przewodow, Poland, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Poland said Wednesday that a Russian-made missile fell in the country’s east, though U.S. President Joe Biden said it was “unlikely” it was fired from Russia. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) Evgeniy Maloletka

Polish police officers search for missile wreckage in the field, near the place where a missile struck, killing two people in a farmland at the Polish village of Przewodow, near the border with Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) Evgeniy Maloletka

Children look at a crater created by an explosion in a residential area after Russian shelling in Solonka, Lviv region, Ukraine, Wednesday. AP PHOTO

PRZEWODOW, Poland — NATO member Poland and the head of the military alliance both said Wednesday that a missile strike in Polish farmland that killed two people appeared to be unintentional and was probably launched by air defenses in neighboring Ukraine. Russia had been bombarding Ukraine at the time in an attack that savaged its power grid.

“Ukraine’s defense was launching their missiles in various directions and it is highly probable that one of these missiles unfortunately fell on Polish territory,” said Polish President Andrzej Duda. “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest that it was an intentional attack on Poland.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, at a meeting of the 30-nation military alliance in Brussels, echoed the preliminary Polish findings. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, disputed them and asked for further investigation.

The assessments of Tuesday’s deadly missile landing appeared to dial back the likelihood of the strike triggering another major escalation in the nearly 9-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine. If Russia had targeted Poland, that could have risked drawing NATO into the conflict.

Still, Stoltenberg and others laid overall but not specific blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

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

Zelenskyy told reporters he had “no doubts” about a report he received from his top commanders “that it wasn’t our missile or our missile strike.” Ukrainian officials should have access to the site and take part in the investigation, he added.

“Let’s say openly, if, God forbid, some remnant (of Ukraine’s air-defenses) killed a person, these people, then we need to apologize,” he said. “But first there needs to be a prob, access — we want to get the data you have.”

On Tuesday, he had called the strike “a very significant escalation.”

Before the Polish and NATO assessments, U.S. President Joe Biden had said it was “unlikely” that Russia fired the missile but added: “I’m going to make sure we find out exactly what happened.”

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman in Moscow said no Russian strike Tuesday was closer than 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the Ukraine-Poland border. The Kremlin denounced Poland’s and other countries’ initial response and, in rare praise for a U.S. leader, hailed Biden’s “restrained, much more professional reaction.”

“We have witnessed another hysterical, frenzied, Russo-phobic reaction that was not based on any real data,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Later Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Polish ambassador in Moscow; the discussion reportedly lasted about 20 minutes.

The Polish president said the missile was probably a Russian-made S-300 dating from the Soviet era. Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, fields Soviet- and Russian-made weaponry and has also seized many more Russian weapons while beating back the Kremlin’s invasion forces.

Russia’s assault on power generation and transmission facilities Tuesday included Ukraine’s western region bordering Poland. Ukraine’s military said 77 of the more than 90 missiles fired were brought down by air defenses, along with 11 drones.

The countrywide bombardment by barrages of cruise missiles and exploding drones clouded the initial picture of what happened in Poland.

“It was a huge blast, the sound was terrifying.” said Ewa Byra, the primary school director in the eastern village of Przewodow, where the missile struck. She said she knew both men who were killed — one was the husband of a school employee, the other the father of a former pupil.

Another resident, 24-year-old Kinga Kancir, said the men worked at a grain-drying facility.

“It is very hard to accept,” she said. “Nothing was going on and, all of a sudden, there is a world sensation.”

In Europe, NATO members called for a thorough investigation and criticized Moscow.

“This wouldn’t have happened without the Russian war against Ukraine, without the missiles that are now being fired at Ukrainian infrastructure intensively and on a large scale,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Swaths of Ukraine were without power after the aerial assault. Zelenskyy said about 10 million people lost electricity, but tweeted overnight that 8 million were subsequently reconnected. Previous strikes had already destroyed an estimated 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure.

Ukraine said the bombardment was the largest on its power grid so far.

A Washington-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, said Ukraine’s downing of so many Russian missiles Tuesday “illustrates the improvement in Ukrainian air defenses in the last month,” which are being bolstered with Western-supplied systems. Sweden said Wednesday that an air defense system with ammunition would form part of its latest and largest package of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, worth $360 million.

The U.S. has been Ukraine’s largest supporter, providing $18.6 billion in weapons and equipment. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said flows of U.S. weapons and assistance would continue “throughout the winter so that Ukraine can continue to consolidate gains and seize the initiative on the battlefield.”

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he tried to speak to his Russian counterpart Wednesday, but those efforts were not successful. Milley didn’t elaborate on the efforts, but the lack of communications, at a time when there were questions about whether Russia had struck a NATO ally, raises concerns about high-level U.S.-Russian communications in a crisis.

The Russian attacks followed days of euphoria in Ukraine sparked by one of its biggest military successes — the retaking last week of the southern city of Kherson.

With its battlefield losses mounting, Russia has increasingly resorted to targeting Ukraine’s power grid as winter approaches.

Russian attacks in the previous 24 hours had also killed at least six civilians and wounded another 17, a senior official, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said Wednesday.

Lviv Gov. Maksym Kozytskyy said two of three Russian missiles hit critical energy infrastructure in the western province. Power was restored to about 95% of the province, he said, but only 30% of consumers can use electricity at the same time.

Power shortages caused extensive train delays extending into Wednesday, but there were no cancelations because diesel locomotives were pressed into service, rail officials said.

Kyiv resident Margina Daria said Tuesday’s strikes knocked out cellphone service in her area.

“We have already adapted to life without light, because we have scheduled outages every day, but without communication it was quite disturbing,” she said. “There was no way to even tell our families that we were OK.”

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AP journalists Vanessa Gera and Monika Scislowska in Warsaw; Lorne Cook in Brussels; John Leicester in Kyiv, Ukraine; Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia; Zeke Miller in Nusa Dua, Indonesia; Michael Balsamo and Lolita Baldor in Washington; Elise Morton in London and James LaPorta in Wilmington, North Carolina, contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine


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