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Ukraine Refuses to Accept It Was Behind Poland Missile Strike, Despite NATO Forgiveness

Gleb Garanich | Reuters
  • Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says he had "no doubt" that Ukraine was not to blame for a missile strike that hit a Polish village on Tuesday evening, killing two people.
  • That's despite NATO's initial assessment that the blast took place as Ukraine was trying to defend itself against Russia.
  • Zelenskyy said Wednesday on Ukrainian TV that his top military commanders had assured him that "it was not our missile and not our missile strike" that was the cause of the incident.
  • The explosion in southeastern Poland provoked a diplomatic storm and fears that a wider conflict between NATO and Russia could erupt.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he had "no doubt" that his country was not to blame for a missile strike that hit a Polish village, killing two people, despite NATO's initial assessment that the blast took place as Ukraine was trying to defend itself against Russia.

Zelenskyy said Wednesday on Ukrainian TV that his top military commanders had assured him that "it was not our missile and not our missile strike" that was the cause of Tuesday's incident, which provoked an international furor and fears that a wider conflict between NATO and Russia could erupt.

"I have no doubt in [Tuesday's] report to me personally — from the Commander of the Air Force to Commander-in-Chief [Valeriy] Zaluzhny — that it was not our missile and not our missile strike," Zelenskyy said.

He reiterated calls from Kyiv to provide it with access to the site of the explosion, near the village of Przewodow in southeastern Poland and just 4 miles from the Ukrainian border, and for Ukraine to be part of a joint investigation being led by Poland and the U.S.

"I believe that we have the right to this. Is it possible not to announce the final conclusions until the investigation is completed? I think it is fair. If someone says that this is our rocket, should we be in a joint investigative group? I think we should, it is only fair."

Suspicions as to who was behind the attack fell on Russia, particularly given a huge barrage of missile strikes that its forces had inflicted on cities across Ukraine during Tuesday. Poland and its other NATO allies, particularly those in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, initially appeared to assume that Russia was behind the attack, although it denied responsibility and called the incident a "deliberate provocation."

Police run a check point outside the scene in Przewodow, Poland, where authorities in Warsaw say a Russian-made missile struck its territory, killing two civilians.
Omar Marques | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Police run a check point outside the scene in Przewodow, Poland, where authorities in Warsaw say a Russian-made missile struck its territory, killing two civilians.

As a flurry of high-level diplomatic meetings took place Wednesday, with NATO itself holding an emergency meeting, more details emerged around the incident with Western officials suggesting that early investigations pointed to it being a Ukrainian air defense system being responsible.

Nonetheless, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that, ultimately, Russia was to blame for the incident due to its ongoing onslaught in Ukraine.

Speaking to the press, Stoltenberg said the military alliance's "preliminary analysis suggests that the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks."

"But let me be clear, this is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine," he said.

Stoltenberg noted that the missile incident took place "as Russia launched a massive wave of rocket attacks across Ukraine" and that "there was no indication this was the result of a deliberate attack," nor any indication it was a result of "offensive military actions against NATO."

Members of the Polish Police conduct search and inspect the fields near the village of Przewodow in Poland on November 16, 2022 after two people were killed in a missile strike.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Members of the Polish Police conduct search and inspect the fields near the village of Przewodow in Poland on November 16, 2022 after two people were killed in a missile strike.

Despite NATO exonerating Ukraine — and even the injured party Poland accepting the missile strike was an "isolated incident" and reiterating its support for Ukraine — Kyiv was quick to defend itself and rebuff the initial findings of the investigation.

Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, tweeted that Kyiv wanted to see the evidence held by its allies that suggested it was involved.

Danilov said on Twitter that Ukraine was "ready to hand over the evidence of the Russian trail that we have" but Kyiv was still awaiting "information from our partners, on the basis of which a conclusion was made that it is a Ukrainian air defense missile."

When asked Wednesday if Ukraine could take part in the joint investigation, Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, told reporters that "the proceedings are conducted by Polish and American experts and if anyone was to be allowed to take part in these proceedings both parties would have to agree."

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