Ukraine reacts as initial findings suggest it fired the missile that hit Poland

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky makes a surprise visit to Kherson on November 14, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine.

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Ukraine’s defense ministry responded cautiously to reports suggesting its own armed forces fired a missile that hit Poland, killing two people, saying the issue was “very sensitive” as more details emerge about the incident.

Early Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported, citing three unnamed U.S. officials, that preliminary assessments indicated “the missile that struck Poland had been fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian missile.”

Other media agencies cited similar details on Wednesday with Reuters reporting a NATO source saying President Joe Biden had told the G-7 and NATO partners that the strike was caused by “a Ukrainian air defense missile,” while the Wall Street Journal cited two senior Western officials briefed on the preliminary U.S. assessments as saying the missile was from a Ukrainian air-defense system.

Ukraine’s ministry was cautious about that initial assessment as investigations continued and NATO prepared to meet in an emergency session in Brussels on Wednesday.

The meeting was called by Poland under Article 4 of the military alliance’s treaty, which allows NATO members to call emergency meetings if they feel their security is threatened.

Late Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said it’s “unlikely” the missile that killed two people in Poland was fired from Russia, citing the trajectory of the rocket. President Andrzej Duda of Poland said Tuesday night that his government didn’t yet conclusively know who fired a missile that struck Polish territory.

Yuriy Sak, an advisor to Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told CNBC that Kyiv welcomed a thorough investigation of the incident, but said the issue was “very sensitive.”

“It is too early to give any definitive answers and it’s very dangerous to jump to any conclusions,” Sak said Wednesday morning.

“I would like to just stress once again that right now, the president of Poland has said that there are no conclusive evidence of what exactly has happened. [U.S. President] Joe Biden, when he was making his comment, he was also cautious because everybody understands that this is a very sensitive issue,” he said.

“Before any conclusions are made, an investigation must be done. So, that is where we stand,” he said.

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

Tuesday night’s incident came after Ukraine suffered a wave of missile strikes by Russia with one Ukrainian official saying over 90 missiles were fired at the country. The attacks knocked out energy infrastructure across Ukraine, reportedly leaving 7 million people without power.

For its part, Ukraine blamed Russia for the missile that hit Poland last night, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly telling his Polish counterpart that it was “a rocket launched from the territory of the Russian Federation.” Russia said it had not fired the missile and called it a “deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation.”

Ukrainian defense official Yuriy Sak told CNBC that Ukraine’s international allies should have responded to Kyiv’s repeated requests for them to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

NATO refused to do that early in the war, fearing it would be dragged into a direct conflict with nuclear power Russia.

“What we want to stress is that if there was no invasion of Ukraine, yesterday would not have happened. If the Ukrainian sky would have been closed at our request by our allies, this would not have happened,” Sak said, echoing comments by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who said Wednesday morning that “none of this would be happening if it wasn’t for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Sak said it was crucial that the missile incident didn’t distract from Ukraine’s defense needs.

“It is very important that we don’t shift the focus now and that we continue to discuss the options for further closing the Ukrainian sky, providing Ukraine with efficient air defense systems, because what needs to happen is that we need to all collectively make sure that such tragic incidents as yesterday do not happen again,” he said.

World leaders hold an emergency meeting in Bali to discuss the explosion on Polish territory. Shown are U.S. President Joe Biden (C), U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

As a flurry of urgent and high-level diplomatic talks are taking place among NATO members on Wednesday, defense analysts suggested that, whether Russia fired the missile or not, it bears a lot responsibility for the attack.

“Russia is to some degree culpable regardless, because it’s firing missiles on civilian infrastructure targets, and firing them dangerously close to NATO territory and the Ukrainian-Polish border, and Ukraine needs to defend itself,” Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute defense think tank, told CNBC Wednesday.

“But it may not be that Russia intentionally targeted Poland, and it could be Ukraine doing it. So right now, I think we need an investigation to figure out what’s really happening.”

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