Ukraine war: Kyiv and allies differ on cause of Poland blast but agree Russia responsible

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By Euronews  with Reuters
Polish soldiers unload equipment from their trucks, near where a missile struck killing two people on farmland at Przewodow, near the Ukraine border, Nov. 16, 2022.
Polish soldiers unload equipment from their trucks, near where a missile struck killing two people on farmland at Przewodow, near the Ukraine border, Nov. 16, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has continued to maintain that he has no doubt that an explosion that killed two people in Poland was not caused by a Ukrainian missile.

It puts him at odds with Western allies who concluded on Wednesday that the origin of the blast was Ukrainian air defence as it tried to down Russian missiles. But all have blamed Russia for being ultimately responsible.

"I have no doubt that it was not our missile," Zelenskyy was quoted as telling Ukrainian media.

He said he believed Tuesday's explosion was caused by a Russian missile, adding that he based his conclusions on reports from Ukraine's military which he "cannot but trust".

US President Joe Biden on Thursday disputed the Ukrainian leader's comment, upon returning from a trip to Asia where he attended the G20 summit.

"That's not the evidence," Biden told reporters at the White House.

'Russia bears ultimate responsiblity'

NATO and Poland also concluded that the missile that crashed in Poland was probably a stray fired by Ukraine's air defences.

Nevertheless, NATO's chief said that Russia, not Ukraine, was still to blame for starting the war with its February invasion and launching scores of missiles on Tuesday that triggered Ukrainian defences.

The incident occurred while Russia unleashed a barrage of missiles on cities across Ukraine, targeting its energy grid and worsening power blackouts for millions, in what Ukraine says was the most intense bombardment of the nine-month-long war.

"This is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

NATO ambassadors held emergency talks on Wednesday to respond to Tuesday's blast that killed two people at a grain facility in Poland near the Ukrainian border, the war's first deadly extension into the territory of the Western alliance.

"From the information that we and our allies have, it was an S-300 rocket made in the Soviet Union, an old rocket and there is no evidence that it was launched by the Russian side," Polish President Andrzej Duda said. "It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence."

The old S-300 rocket was being used by both Russia and Ukraine.

Zelenskyy was quoted as saying he believed Ukraine should already have been given access to the site of the explosion.

"Do we have the right to be in the investigation team? Of course," he said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the "mayhem" around accusations of Russian involvement in the missile were "part of a systematic anti-Russian campaign by the West."

Brutality of war grips Polish village

Hours after an apparently stray missile delivered death to their village, the inhabitants of Przewodow, south-eastern Poland, struggled on Wednesday with the realisation that the war on their doorstep could spill across the border at any time.

For many, terror or disbelief were the overriding emotions, though some expressed relief that the missile that killed two of their neighbours on Tuesday appeared to have been an accident caused by Ukraine's air defences and not a Russian strike.

"Everyone has in the back of their mind that we are right near the border and that an armed conflict with Russia would expose us directly," Grzegorz Drewnik, the mayor of Dolhobyczow, which incorporates Przewodow, told Reuters.

Many parents in Przewodow kept their children at home on Wednesday, while others assessed damage caused to buildings by the explosion, which struck a grain dryer at a 2,500-hectare farm some six kilometres from the border with Ukraine and rattled windows 15 kilometres away.

"I'm terrified, people whom we knew very well have died," Joanna Magus, a teacher of Polish at the local primary school, who lies just 100 metres from the site of the explosion, told reporters.

The blast's victims were two male workers at the storage facility, one 58 and the other 62, said school principal Ewa Byra.

After a sleepless night, Byra decided to keep her school, situated some 300 metres from the blast site, open on Wednesday.

"I told the parents I see no grounds to close the school but kids haven't shown up. It seems parents have kept them at home amid the heavy police presence," she said.