“This is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility,” Stoltenberg said.
Before the Polish and NATO assessments, US 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.”
Russia has been bombing Ukraine’s power and electricity infrastructure in an attempt to inflict maximum suffering during winter. Getty
Three US officials said preliminary assessments suggested it was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian one. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to discuss the matter publicly.
That assessment and Biden’s comments at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia contradicted information earlier Tuesday from a senior US intelligence official who told The Associated Press that Russian missiles crossed into Poland.
Former Soviet-bloc country Ukraine maintains stocks of Soviet- and Russian-made weaponry, including air-defence missiles, and has also seized many more Russian weapons while beating back the Kremlin’s invasion forces.Advertisement
Ukrainian air defences worked furiously against the Russian assault Tuesday on power generation and transmission facilities, including in Ukraine’s western region that borders Poland. Ukraine’s military said 77 of the more than 90 missiles fired were brought down, along with 11 drones.
The Kremlin on Wednesday denounced Poland’s and other countries’ initial response to the missile landing and, in rare praise for a U.S. leader, hailed Biden’s “restrained, much more professional reaction.”
“We have witnessed another hysterical, frenzied, Russophobic reaction that was not based on any real data,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He added that “immediately, all experts realised that it could not have been a missile linked to the Russian armed forces.”
Still, Ukraine was under countrywide Russian bombardment Tuesday by barrages of cruise missiles and exploding drones, which clouded the initial picture of what exactly happened in Poland and why.
In Europe, NATO members Germany and the UK laced their calls for a through investigation of the missile landing with criticism of Moscow.Advertisement
“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.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This is the cruel and unrelenting reality of Putin’s war.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it “a very significant escalation.” On the other end of the spectrum, China was among those calling for calm and restraint.
Damage from the aerial assault in Ukraine was extensive and swaths of the country were plunged into darkness. Zelenskyy said about 10 million people lost power but tweeted overnight that 8 million were subsequently reconnected, with repair crews labouring through the night. Previous Russian strikes had already destroyed an estimated 40 per cent of the country’s energy infrastructure.
The missile landed in the Polish farming village of Przewodow near the border with Ukraine.
The Russian bombardment also affected neighbouring Moldova. It reported massive power outages after the strikes in Ukraine disconnected a power line to the small nation.Advertisement
Tuesday’s assaults killed one person in a residential building in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. It 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, seemingly hoping to turn the approach of winter into a weapon by leaving people in the cold and dark.