Polish Foreign Ministry says missiles are Russian-made
WARSAW, POLAND – Poland said on Wednesday morning that a Russian-made missile fell in the east of the country, killing two people, although US President Joe Biden said it was “unlikely” that it was fired from Russia.
The explosion, which Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy called a “very significant escalation,” prompted Biden to call an emergency meeting of G-7 and NATO leaders. A deliberate and hostile attack on NATO member Poland could trigger a collective military response from the alliance.
But key questions about the circumstances of the missile launch have remained amid confusion caused by a blistering series of Russian airstrikes across the neighboring border in Ukraine, none greater than the one that fired it. Russia has denied any involvement in the explosion in Poland.
Three U.S. officials said preliminary assessments suggested the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian missile amid the overwhelming salvo against Ukrainian power infrastructure on Tuesday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
That assessment and Biden’s comments at the G20 summit in Indonesia contradict information earlier Tuesday from a senior U.S. intelligence official who told the AP that Russian missiles had entered Poland.
The Polish government said it was investigating and increasing its level of military readiness. Biden has promised to support Poland’s investigation.
A statement from the Polish Foreign Ministry identified the weapon as being made in Russia. President Andrzej Duda was more cautious, saying it was “most likely” Russian-made but its origins were still being verified.
“We are acting calmly,” Duda said. “It’s a difficult situation.”
Biden’s decision to call the emergency meeting upended the schedule for the final day of the Group of 20 meeting in Indonesia.
Biden, who was awakened overnight by staff with news of the missile while attending the summit, called Polish President Andrzej Duda to express his condolences. On Twitter, Biden pledged “full United States support and assistance to Poland’s investigation” and “reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to NATO.”
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has convened the meeting of alliance envoys in Brussels. The UN Security Council is also scheduled to meet on Wednesday for a previously scheduled briefing on the situation in Ukraine. The strike in Poland was certain to be lifted.
Poland’s statement did not specify whether the strike could have been a targeting error or whether the missile could have been deflected by Ukrainian defenses.
In their statements, Poland and NATO used language suggesting that they were not treating the missile explosion as an intentional Russian attack, at least for now. A NATO statement called it a “tragic incident”.
Had Russia deliberately targeted Poland, it would risk dragging the 30-nation alliance into the conflict at a time when it is already struggling to repel Ukrainian forces.
Polish media reported that the strike took place in an area where grain was drying in Przewodów, a village near the border with Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied being behind “any strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border” and said in a statement that photos of alleged damage “have nothing to do” with Russian weapons.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau summoned the Russian ambassador and “demanded an immediate detailed explanation”, the government said.
The strike came to light as Russia pounded Ukraine’s energy facilities with its biggest missile barrage yet, hitting targets across the country and causing widespread blackouts.
The dam also affected neighboring Moldova. It reported massive power outages after strikes knocked out a key power line that supplies power to the tiny nation, an official said.
The missile strikes plunged much of Ukraine into darkness and prompted defiance from Zelenskyy, who shook his fist and declared, “We will survive anything.
In his overnight address, the Ukrainian leader said the strike in Poland was proof that “terror is not limited by the borders of our state”.
“We have to put the terrorist in his place. The longer Russia feels unpunished, the more threats there will be to anyone within range of Russian missiles,” Zelenskyy said.
Russia fired at least 85 missiles, most aimed at the country’s electrical installations, and occluded many cities, he said.
Ukraine’s energy minister said the attack was “the most massive bombardment” of power installations since the nearly 9-month invasion, hitting both power generation and transmission systems.
Minister Herman Haluschenko accused Russia of “trying to cause maximum damage to our energy system on the eve of winter”.
The attack killed at least one person in a residential building in the capital, Kyiv. It followed days of euphoria in Ukraine sparked by one of its greatest military successes – last week’s recapture of the southern city of Kherson.
The electricity grid has already been damaged by previous attacks that have destroyed around 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on the withdrawal from Kherson since his troops withdrew in the face of a Ukrainian offensive. But the staggering scale of Tuesday’s strikes speaks volumes and hints at the Kremlin’s anger.
Hitting targets in the late afternoon, shortly before dusk, the Russian military forced rescuers to work in the dark and gave repair crews little time to assess the damage in daylight. .
More than a dozen regions – including Lviv in the west, Kharkiv in the northeast and others in between – reported strikes or efforts by their air defenses to shoot down missiles. At least a dozen regions reported power outages, affecting cities that together have millions of people. Nearly half of the Kyiv region has lost power, authorities said.
Deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said a total of 15 energy targets were damaged and claimed 70 missiles were shot down. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said Russia used X-101 and X-555 cruise missiles.
With its battlefield losses mounting, Russia has increasingly relied on Ukraine’s power grid, apparently hoping to weaponize the approach of winter by leaving people in the cold and dark.
The strikes came as authorities were already working hard to get Kherson back on its feet and beginning to investigate allegations of Russian abuses in and around it. The southern town is without electricity or water.
The takeover of Kherson dealt another blow to the Kremlin. Zelenskyy compared the resumption to the Allied landings in France on D-Day in World War II, saying both were watershed events on the road to eventual victory.
But large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine remain under Russian control and fighting continues.
Meanwhile, the leaders of most of the world’s economic powers were getting closer to approving a statement strongly denouncing the Russian invasion.
On Tuesday, Biden and Zelenskyy pressed fellow G20 leaders at the Indonesia summit for strong condemnation of Russia’s nuclear threats and food embargoes. Further discussions and a possible vote were expected on Wednesday.
Gera reported from Warsaw; Miller from Nusa Dua, Indonesia; Washington Balsamo. Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska in Warsaw; James LaPorta in Wilmington, North Carolina; Lolita Baldor in Washington; Nomaan Merchant in New York; Joanna Kozlowska in London; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Hanna Arhirova in Kherson, Ukraine; Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia; Raf Casert and Lorne Cook in Brussels; and Adam Schreck at Nusa Dua contributed to this report.