Poland says blast likely caused by Ukraine missile in accident

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Western leaders played down fears Wednesday that a deadly missile blast in eastern Poland could herald a dangerous escalation in the war Russia launched against Ukraine, blaming stray anti-aircraft fire.

Poland and NATO said the explosion was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile lanched to intercept a Russian barrage, but that Moscow was ultimately to blame for starting the conflict.

Both the Western leaders at the G20 summit in Bali and NATO ambassadors in Brussels called emergency meetings, amid fears the blasts were a Russian strike that might force the allies to respond.

Duda said it was very likely that the Soviet-era missile was launched by Ukraine in what he called an “unfortunate accident” and said the blame lay with Russia because of its attacks on Ukraine.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg underlined this stance and EU diplomats meeting in Brussels praised Warsaw, one of Ukraine’s closest friends and Russia’s fiercest foes, for its measured response.

“But let me be clear, this is not Ukraine’s fault,” he continued. “Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”

“We are prepared to handle situations like this in a firm, calm, resolute way, but also in a way that prevent further escalation,” he said.

NATO’s most powerful member, the United States, has hundreds of troops in Poland and leads the West in supplying weapons to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government in Kyiv.

The Russian defence ministry said: “Photographs of the wreckage… were unequivocally identified by Russian military experts as fragments of a guided anti-aircraft missile of a Ukrainian S-300 air defence system.” 

With world leaders meeting in Bali at the G20 summit, Ukrainian officials initially insisted that Russia must have fired the missile that hit Poland, but later asked to take part in the investigation.

He said Kyiv was ready to hand over evidence of its claim that Russia was responsible, but that he was “expecting information from our partners” on reports that it was an Ukrainian missile.

“I’m scared. I didn’t sleep all night,” Anna Magus, a 60-year-old teacher at the local elementary school, told AFP near the scene. “I hope it was a stray missile because otherwise we’re helpless.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and still holds swathes of territory despite a series of recent battlefield defeats.

The explosion came after a wave of Russian missiles hit cities across Ukraine on Tuesday, including Lviv, near the Polish border.

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Originally published as Poland says blast likely caused by Ukraine missile in accident


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