Oops. Everyone was a little quick on the trigger Tuesday night when making statements about the missile fire that killed two people in a Polish village three miles from its border with Ukraine.
Now, officials from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States say it is “likely” that the missile was fired by Ukrainian troops attempted to intercept a Russian missile – not Russian missile fire.
President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday that preliminary information about the missile fire indicated it was “unlikely” to have been fired by Russia but pledged a thorough investigation.
“This is not Ukraine’s fault,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “Russia bears ultimate responsibility. This is a direct result of the ongoing war.
“Of course, Ukraine has the right to shoot down missiles targeting Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.”
Stoltenberg added that a Ukrainian air defense missile “doesn’t have the characteristics of a deliberate attack” by Russia but refused to share details of the missile that landed in Poland, such as its precise location, whether in fact it intercepted a Russian projectile or even whether in fact a Russian missile was in the area at the time.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda joined the chorus, saying there was no evidence that the deadly missile fire was deliberate – but still found a way to blame Russia.
“Ukraine defended itself, which is obvious and understandable, by firing missiles whose task was to knock down Russian missiles,” Duda said Wednesday. “The Russian side is to blame for this tragic event.”
Nevertheless, Duda added that at present, his country does not have any “unequivocal evidence” as to who fired the rocket. Investigations are under way, he said.
Further support for the claim that Ukraine was attempting to intercept a Russian attack comes from the fact that Russia unleashed a massive barrage of at least 96 missiles across Ukraine on Tuesday, targeting the country’s civilian energy infrastructure and residential buildings in the capital, Kyiv.
It was the largest barrage of missile fire directed at Ukrainian citizens since the start of Russia’s invasion of the country, particularly since Moscow began last month to target critical infrastructure as the biting cold of winter begins.
NATO ambassadors met Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the incident and plan its next moves. Poland chose not to ask for emergency consultations under NATO’s Article IV.
Ambassadors to the European Union likewise met and unanimously agreed that “Russia bears direct responsibility for yesterday’s tragedy, for the death of two Polish citizens,” Poland’s EU Ambassador Andrzej Sados said.