Polish and NATO leaders said the missile that killed two people on Polish territory on Tuesday was likely fired by Ukrainian forces defending their country against a series of Russian attacks and that the incident appeared to be an accident.
The explosion occurred outside the village outside the rural village of Przewodow in eastern Poland, about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) west of the Ukrainian border on Tuesday afternoon, around the same time as Russia launched its biggest wave of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities in more than a month.
On Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda told a news conference that there was a “high probability” that it was an anti-aircraft missile from the Ukrainian side and had probably fallen in Poland in an “accident” while intercepting Russian missiles.
“There is no indication that this was a deliberate attack on Poland. It was probably a Russian S-300 missile,” Duda tweeted earlier Wednesday.
Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have used Russian munitions in the conflict, including the S-300 air-to-air missile system, which Kyiv has deployed as part of its air defenses.
The incident in NATO member Poland prompted ambassadors from the US-led military alliance to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said there was no indication that the incident was the result of a deliberate attack by either side and that Ukrainian forces were not to blame for defending their country from Russian attacks.
“Our preliminary analysis suggests that the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile launched to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks,” Stoltenberg said. “But let me be clear, this is not Ukraine’s fault.” Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg also said there were no signs that Russia was planning to attack a NATO country, in comments that appeared intended to defuse rising tensions.
News of the incident overnight sparked a flurry of activity thousands of miles away in Indonesia, where US President Joe Biden called an emergency meeting with several world leaders to discuss the issue on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
The joint statement following the emergency G20 meeting was deliberately vague when it came to the incident, placing far more emphasis on the dozens of shootings that took place in the hours before the missile crossed into Poland.
Duda and Stoltenberg’s comments echo those of two officials briefed on the initial US assessment, who told CNN it appeared the missile was Russian-made and originated in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military told the U.S. and its allies that they had tried to intercept a Russian missile at the time and near the location of the Polish missile attack, a U.S. official told CNN. It is not clear that this anti-aircraft missile is the same missile that attacked Poland, but this information has informed the current US assessment of the attack.
The National Security Council said the United States has “full confidence” in the Polish investigation into the bombing and that the “ultimate party responsible” for the incident is Russia for its continued incursion.
The investigation of the site where the missile landed will remain a joint operation with the United States, Polish President Duda said on Wednesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for Ukrainian experts to be given access to the site.
Zelensky said on Wednesday he did not believe his forces had fired the missile and called for Ukrainian experts to join the investigation. “I have no doubt that it was not our missile,” he told reporters in Kyiv.
Earlier on Wednesday, Zelensky’s adviser said the incident was the result of Russian aggression, but did not directly deny that the Ukrainian side may have launched the missile.
“Russia has turned the eastern part of continental Europe into an unpredictable battlefield. The intent, the methods of execution, the risk, the escalation – it all comes from Russia alone,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a statement to CNN.
A Ukrainian air force spokesman said on state television Wednesday that the military would “do everything” to facilitate the Polish investigation.
Earlier, Biden said that preliminary information indicated that the missile that landed in Poland was unlikely to have been fired from Russia, after consulting with allies at the G20 meeting in Bali.
“I don’t want to say that [it was fired from Russia] until we fully investigate,” Biden continued. “It is unlikely in the track’s mind that it was fired from Russia.” But we’ll see.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Russia had nothing to do with the missile incident in Poland and that some leaders issued statements without understanding “what really happened.”
“The Poles had every opportunity to immediately announce that they were talking about the wreckage of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.” And accordingly, all experts would have understood that this could not be a missile that had anything to do with the Russian military,” Peskov said in a regular call with reporters.
“We have witnessed another hysterical crazy Russophobic reaction, which was not based on any real evidence. High-ranking leaders of different countries made statements without having a clue of what actually happened.”
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, echoed Peskov on Wednesday, rejecting claims by other members of the United Nations Security Council that Russia was ultimately responsible for Tuesday’s missile incident in Poland.
“We have long since ceased to be surprised by your attempts, under any circumstances, despite the facts or common sense, to blame everything on Russia,” Nebenzya told a UN Security Council meeting in New York.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNN that NATO allies must “keep their cool” in light of the incident.
“I think we really have to keep a cool head, knowing that there could be a contagion effect, especially to those countries that are very close [to Ukraine]Kallas told CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour in an interview on Wednesday.
The incident comes after Russia launched 85 missiles at Ukraine on Tuesday, mostly at energy facilities. The explosion caused a power outage in the city and knocked out power to 10 million people nationwide. Electricity has since been restored to eight million consumers, Zelensky later confirmed.
Ukrainians across the country were expected to face further scheduled and unscheduled power outages on Wednesday.