Kyiv has pledged support for an international investigation into a missile explosion that killed two people in a Polish village near the Ukrainian border, as Warsaw and senior western officials said the rocket was probably launched by Ukraine’s air defence systems.
The Kremlin said it felt no responsibility for an incident that occurred as Ukraine tried to shoot down almost 100 Russian missiles fired at its cities and critical infrastructure, and which raised fears that Nato could become embroiled in Russia’s war on its neighbour.
“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 of Monday’s strike on the village of Przewodow.
“It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence,” he added.
The S-300 system is used primarily for air defence in former Soviet states, and while Russian forces are also now using it to strike ground targets in Ukraine, it does not have sufficient range to hit Przewodow, which is about 10km from the Poland-Ukraine border.
“There is no indication that yesterday’s event was an attack on Polish territory. We were dealing most probably with an unfortunate event, as a result of which Polish citizens died,” said Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
“Ukrainian forces, countering a massive Russian attack, launched their missiles yesterday to shoot down Russian missiles. There are many indications that one of these missiles fell on Polish territory without any intention on either side.”
At least one person was killed in Kyiv during Monday’s Russian bombardment, which did further damage to Ukraine’s already severely weakened electricity grid as winter draws in, forcing power firms to impose rolling blackouts as engineers undertook emergency repairs.
“We are in favour of further, extremely detailed investigation of this incident jointly with our partners. We are ready to give our partners the evidence we have of Russian involvement. We also await information from partners on the basis of which the final conclusion was made that this was a Ukrainian air defence missile,” said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council.
“In addition, Ukraine requests that representatives of the ministry of defence and the state border guard service of Ukraine be granted access to the site of the explosion without delay… We remain fully open to a comprehensive study of the situation and agreement on conclusions based on the full range of available data,” he added.
Warsaw and several other Nato capitals said Moscow was ultimately responsible for the deadly incident, because its invasion and massive missile strikes forced Ukraine to defend itself. On Tuesday evening, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy blamed a Russian rocket for the strike, saying it was “a very significant escalation. We must act”.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also said on Wednesday that Przewodow village was probably hit by a Ukrainian air defence missile, however, and US president Joe Biden said the trajectory of the missile suggested that it probably was not fired from Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov praised “the restrained and far more professional response of the American side and the American president” in comparison to what he called “the absolutely hysterical reactions of the Polish side and a number of other countries”.
Mr Zelenskiy said Russia’s latest attack on Ukraine’s national grid caused blackouts for about 10 million people, but that electricity was restored to about eight million of them overnight as engineers rushed to repair power stations and transmission lines.