President Joe Biden appeared to break with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Thursday, sticking by his claim that the fatal explosions that killed two in Poland were caused by Ukrainian missiles.
Biden was asked about Zelensky’s statement that the strikes close to his nation’s border were caused by a Russian missile, despite several world leaders suggesting it was likely of Ukrainian origin.
The president, speaking to reporters upon returning to the White House from the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, said: ‘That’s not the evidence.’
Warsaw initially claimed it came from Russia, which could have seen NATO invoking Article 5 in which an attack on one country is considered an attack on all of them, sparking a collective defense effort.
Now, western leaders, including the United States, have said it was probably launched by Ukrainian air defense, easing fears that the strike could drag NATO into direct conflict with Russia, but giving Vladimir Putin excuse to lash out at the West.
President Joe Biden answers a question from a reporter about the missile that crashed in Poland as he arrives back at the White House from travel to the G20 and ASEAN summits, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington
Biden appeared to break with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Thursday, sticking by his claim that the fatal explosions that killed two in Poland were caused by Ukrainian missiles
Biden was asked about Zelensky’s statement that the strikes close to his nation’s border were caused by a Russian missile, despite several world leaders suggesting it was likely of Ukrainian origin
The president, speaking to reporters upon returning to the White House from the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, said: ‘That’s not the evidence’
Western leaders, including the United States, have said it was probably launched by Ukrainian air defense, easing fears that the strike could drag NATO into direct conflict with Russia, but giving Vladimir Putin excuse to lash out at the West
The Ukrainian president was quoted by Interfax Ukraine news agency as saying on Wednesday he had no doubt that an explosion that killed two people in Poland was not caused by a Ukrainian missile.
‘I have no doubt that it was not our missile,’ he said, adding that he believed Tuesday’s explosion was caused by a Russian missile, and that he had based his conclusions on reports from Ukraine’s military which he ‘cannot but trust’.
Zelensky also said he believes that Ukraine should already have been given access to the site of the explosion to be involved in the analysis of debris to determine the origin of the suspected missile.
‘Do we have the right to be in the investigation team? Of course,’ he said.
Zelensky also confirmed Kyiv had received no offer from Moscow to start peace talks despite concerns of an escalation in the war following the incident.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week that Ukraine was not interested in holding peace talks with Russia, but Zelensky declared: ‘[The Russians] do not communicate with us.’
Poland meanwhile installed barbed wire along its border with Russia earlier today after the deadly incident on Tuesday afternoon.
Soldiers were seen laying down the razor wire near Szyliny village near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
The 8ft high and 10ft wide defenses are being put up amid soaring tensions between the two countries to prevent illegal crossings into Poland.
There are fears that Russia could deliberately flood Poland with an influx of migrants to wreak havoc in the EU.
NATO member states are also discussing bolstering their air defenses in the east, with Slovakia demanding additional systems from alliance partners to ‘safeguard even more the security of Slovak citizens’, their defense minister said.
Lithuania has also called for more defenses along the Polish-Ukraine border and on the rest of NATO’s eastern flank, with president Gitanas Nauseda saying: ‘NATO sky must be 100 per cent defended.’
Police officers stand by a check point as they inspect the documents of a civilian on November 16, 2022 in Przewodow, close to the scene of a missile strike on Tuesday which killed two
Police officers wear rain coats as they search and patrol around the blast site on November 16, 2022 in Przewodow, Poland
Police officers stand by a check point as they inspect the documents of a civilian on November 16, 2022 in Przewodow , Poland. Yesterday, missiles landed in Poland close to the Ukrainian border, killing two people
The Ukrainian president (pictured) was quoted by Interfax Ukraine news agency as saying on Wednesday he had no doubt that an explosion that killed two people in Poland was not caused by a Ukrainian missile
Polish soldiers install a barbed wire fence along the border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, near Szyliny village, today
Poland has installed barbed wire along its border with Russia just hours after a missile rained down on its territory, killing two people
Soldiers were seen laying down the razor wire near Szyliny village near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad today
A woman prays before the evening mass on the day after the missile attack in Przewodow on November 16, 2022
Twin explosions hit Przewodów, a rural village located five miles from the Ukrainian border in south western Poland. The aftermath of one of the explosions, which killed two, is pictured
Bogdan C, a tractor driver, and Boguslaw W, a warehouse manager at a grain silo, both aged in their 60s, died when the missile landed on them around 3.40pm Tuesday local time
There are fears that Russia could deliberately flood Poland with an influx of migrants to wreak havoc in the EU
Polish authorities said they are concerned Russia is planning to encourage migrants to head to Poland to destabilise the country
Concerns that the war would escalate were raised dramatically with the missile that was fired into Poland on Tuesday, killing two farmers.
The Kremlin has now summoned the Polish ambassador to Moscow to the foreign ministry to explain their ‘absolutely hysterical’ reaction.
Today, Polish President Andrzej Duda, speaking after a meeting of his security council Wednesday, said he has seen ‘no evidence’ the missile was fired by Russia and it was in fact ‘highly probable’ the Soviet-era S-300 rocket came from Ukraine. There is no indication that Poland was deliberately targeted, he added.
‘Ukraine’s defense was launching their missiles in various directions and it is highly probable that one of these missiles unfortunately fell on Polish territory,’ according to Duda, who added that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for the strike because Putin began the war in Ukraine.
Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO, backed that analysis – saying the strike was likely a Ukrainian missile, there is ‘no indication’ it was deliberate and there is ‘no indication’ Russia is preparing an attack on NATO. However, he added: ‘This is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.’
Ludivine Dedonder, the Belgian defense minister, said preliminary investigations by his security forces indicate the same thing – adding to reports that emerged in the early hours suggesting Biden had also told NATO leaders the rocket was from Ukraine.
Polish medics pick their way through rubble following the missile strike on Przewodow on Tuesday, which killed two people
A chunk of metal is pictured lying in the dirt after the explosion. The Polish president has said the missile appears to be ‘Russian-made’, while Joe Biden has said it does not appear the missile was fired ‘from Russia’
World leaders (clockwise from top left) Olaf Scholz, Pedro Sanchez, Emmanuel Macron, Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden hold a tense conversations on the sidelines of the G20 summit after the strike on Poland
Andrzej Duda (left) said today that the missile appears to have been fired by Ukrainian air defense, while Jens Stoltenberg (right) concurred – though added that Russia still bears ultimate responsibility
Joe Biden chaired an emergency meeting of NATO leaders – including close allies Japan and the EU – at the G20 summit in Indonesia as they work out how to respond after the missile strike
Biden said it does not appear the missile was fired ‘from Russia’ but stressed investigations are ongoing. Sunak said allies are determined to get to the bottom of what has happened
Rishi Sunak and Canada’s Justin Trudeau – both NATO members – hold talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali
Smoke rises over the town of Przewodow in eastern Poland after a missile struck on Tuesday afternoon, killing two people
Police probe the site where a missile strike killed two men in the eastern Poland village of Przewodow, near Ukraine
The strike on Przewodow came amid the largest Russian missile bombardment on Ukraine yet during the war, with Kyiv’s air force saying 90 weapons were fired in consecutive salvos – mostly targeting energy infrastructure
Poland missile victims revealed: First pictures emerge of driver and warehouse worker
These are the faces of two Polish farm workers killed when a stray Ukrainian missile crashed down on top of them yesterday, sparking a major diplomatic incident.
Bogusław Wos, 62, the foreman of a grain warehouse, and Bogdan Ciupek, 60, a tractor driver, were killed around 3.40pm Tuesday when an S-300 rocket hit the town of Przewodow in eastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine.
Warehouse supervisor Bogusław Wos, 62 (left), and tractor driver Bogdan Ciupek, 60 (right), have been named as the two men killed in a missile strike on Poland yesterday afternoon
Horrified residents reported hearing ‘strange whistles’ as the missile flew overhead and then ‘a massive explosion, about a thousand decibels’ as it slammed down.
Neighbours say Boguslaw had worked in the grain silo warehouse for 40 years and lived with his wife and elderly mother-in-law, who they both looked after.
The Przewodow native is reported to have two grown up children who now live in the southern Polish city of Krakow.
Bogdan, who worked as a driver at the grain drying plant, lived in the nearby village of Setniki.
A neighbour told local media: ‘We all know each other, it’s not a big town.
‘We have never experienced such a tragedy. They were good people.’
Another told news portal interia.pl: ‘Boguslaw went to work as usual and at around 4pm his wife realized that something bad had happened.
‘Some of the neighbors, out of compassion and curiosity, wanted to visit his wife but she was in a frenzy, she did not want to talk, she looked into the distance and cried.
‘She was in terrible shock.’
It is thought that Bogdan had just arrived at a grain-drying warehouse driving a tractor-trailer full of grain when the missile hit.
Boguslaw was reportedly waiting for him, to help unload the cargo.
Hours after the incident, Volodymyr Zelensky had blamed it on ‘Russian missile terror’, and Kyiv is yet to concede its own missile was involved. Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said Kyiv wanted access to the site and still saw a Russian ‘trace’ behind the attack.
The news came after a nervous night in which it looked like NATO and Russia could be heading for a direct confrontation that would have risked triggering World War Three, and it underlines the risk that a single mistake or miscalculation in Ukraine could yet spark such a conflict.
Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish Prime Minister, said it may no longer be necessary to trigger NATO Article 4 – which calls for discussions among allies over a threat – but that allies will strengthen air defenses in the region.
However, that will come as small comfort to the families of the two men killed, who were identified by Polish media as a tractor driver called Bogdan C and a warehouse foreman called Boguslaw W, both aged in their 60s.
Locals said the pair were working to offload grain at a drying facility when the missile hit, killing them instantly.
The blast happened around 900ft from a housing compound where around 500 people live. If the missile had struck it, casualties would have been much higher.
Horrified residents reported hearing ‘strange whistles’ as the missile flew overhead and then ‘a massive explosion, about a thousand decibels.’
Neighbours say that Boguslaw who had worked in the grain silo warehouse for 40 years lived with his wife and elderly mother-in-law, who they both looked after. He is reported to have two grown up children who live in Krakow.
Bogdan C., who worked as a driver for the plant, lived in the nearby village of Setniki. A neighbour told local media: ‘We all know each other, it’s not a big town.
‘We have never experienced such a tragedy. They were good people.’
Another told news portal interia.pl: ‘Boguslaw went to work as usual and at around 4pm his wife realized that something bad had happened.
‘Some of the neighbors, out of compassion and curiosity, wanted to visit his wife but she was in a frenzy, she did not want to talk, she looked into the distance and cried. ‘She was in terrible shock.’
Zelensky, addressing the G20 for a second time Wednesday, said the strike on Poland was ‘a true statement brought by Russia for the G20 summit.’
‘There is a terrorist state among you, and we are defending ourselves against it. That is the reality,’ he added, though Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had already departed the conference late Tuesday.
Sunak, speaking as the G20 broke up with a joint statement condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine, said allies are still working to ‘establish the facts’ of what happened in Poland.
He added: ‘The persistent threat to our security and global asphyxiation has been driven by the actions of the one man unwilling to be at this summit – Vladimir Putin.
‘There isn’t a single person in the world who has not felt the impact of Putin’s war.’
‘What we agreed this morning is that it is important to establish the facts and this is exactly what is happening as we speak. We will get to the bottom of what happened.
‘[The strike] was happening at a time when the G20 was gathered trying to find resolution to some of the world’s challenges. I think it shows utter contempt for the international rules-based system.’
The dramatic development came on another day of bloodshed and destruction in Ukraine, with more than 100 Russian missiles landing in major population centers, killing three and cutting the power supply to millions.
Zelensky spoke by phone Tuesday with Polish counterpart Duda, offering his condolences following reports of the alleged Russian missile strike on Polish soil.
‘Expressed condolences over the death of Polish citizens from Russian missile terror. We exchanged available information and are clarifying all the facts. Ukraine, Poland, all of Europe and the world must be fully protected from terrorist Russia,’ Zelensky said in a tweet.
Stoltenberg said on Twitter: ‘Spoke with President Duda about the explosion in Poland. I offered my condolences for the loss of life. NATO is monitoring the situation and Allies are closely consulting. Important that all facts are established.’
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meanwhile declared: ‘Alarmed by reports of an explosion in Poland, following a massive Russian missile strike on Ukrainian cities. I extend my condolences and my strongest message of support and solidarity with Poland and our Ukrainian friends,’ adding she was in close contact with Polish security officials.
Sunak in a tweet said Britain will support allies as they establish what happened.
‘We are also coordinating with our international partners, including NATO,’ Sunak said.
French president Emmanuel Macron said: ‘The consequences of this conflict go beyond European borders’.
Latvian deputy prime minister Artis Pabriks tweeted: ‘My condolences to our Polish brothers in arms. Criminal Russian regime fired missiles which target not only Ukrainian civilians but also landed on Nato territory.’
Estonia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs added: ‘Estonia is ready to defend every inch of Nato territory.’
And UK defense commentator Rear Admiral Chris Parry said it was ‘time to station advanced anti-air systems on Nato’s borders and intercept anything that looks like it would cross those borders’.
Russia on Tuesday unleashed one of its largest missile barrages to date at Ukraine, leaving the country’s energy network ‘critical’ with rolling blackouts.
More than 100 rockets were fired at cities across the country, hitting civilian buildings and power stations, the Ukrainian air force said.
G20 Leaders raise garden hoes for a group photo during a tree planting event at the Taman Hutan Raya Ngurah Rai Mangrove Forest on the Indonesian resort island of Bali
Emmanuel Macron (left), Joe Biden (center) and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva (right) speaking during the G20 summit in Indonesia overnight
Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo lead heads of state during a tour of a mangrove seeding facility during the G20 summit
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a session at the G20 in Indonesia
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping after taking part in the closing session at the G20 Leaders Summit in Bali
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo take part in the handover ceremony at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali overnight
Delegates applaud at the handover ceremony during the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali, Indonesia
Delegates attend the handover ceremony at the G20 Leaders’ Summit, in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia
Polish president Andrzej Duda (left) said the missile appeared to be ‘Russian made’ but investigations are ongoing and called for ‘calm’. President Putin (right) has not spoken, but the Kremlin denied any involvement and called claims a ‘provocation’
Volodymyr Zelensky directly blamed Russia for the strike, saying it is a ‘serious escalation’ that demands and response
Ukraine ‘blows up Russian oil depot 190 miles from Moscow in drone strike’
Images show a suspected Ukrainian military drone attack on a Russian oil depot just 190 miles from Moscow.
The 4am attack ‘blew up an oil depot in the settlement of Stalnoi Kon’, said regional governor Andrey Klychkov.
Unverified images on social media showed what appeared to be a single rupture on the side of an oil storage tank, blackened by soot.
The logo of Russia’s state-controlled pipeline operator Transneft can be seen on the tank, which state television said was believed to be empty. The alleged drone attack left a crater some 12ft deep, according to one report.
Since the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, several fuel or ammunition depots in southern Russia have been attacked by drones or helicopters, with authorities blaming Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian official Anton Geraschenko drew attention to the depot blast without claiming responsibility.
He posted an image of the site in flames – which it was not possible to verify – and a caption: ‘Smoking in the wrong place reached the Oryol region.’
Pictures later showed significant damage to the oil storage complex.
The site is around 100 miles from the border with Ukraine.
If it was Ukrainian, it would be a record reach for a Kyiv attack on Russia.
Images show a suspected Ukrainian military drone attack on a Russian oil depot just 190 miles from Moscow
The 4am attack ‘blew up an oil depot in the settlement of Stalnoi Kon’, said regional governor governor Andrey Klychkov
Tuesday’s bombardment left half of Kyiv, where at least one civilian died, and the whole city of Zhytomyr without power.
Strikes were also reported in the western city of Lviv – the closest large urban settlement to the Polish border – and caused partial blackouts.
Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, Rivne, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, Chernihiv, Khmelnytskyi, and Ivano-Frankivsk were also targeted.
The bombardment came as German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that documents leaked from the German military said one of the country’s top generals, Eberhard Zorn, ordered the country’s army to put itself on a war footing in the face of ‘existential’ threats.
The 68-page policy paper was produced in September, according to Der Spiegel. In it, Zorn called for the complete overhaul of the German military and told commanders to prepare themselves for war.
‘Attacks on Germany can potentially occur without warning and with great, possibly even existential, damage,’ he wrote.
Attacks on Ukraine came just hours after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky – speaking via videolink from Kyiv – told world leaders at the G20 Bali summit that he is ready to end the war provided Russia withdraws its troops from areas it currently occupies.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov – speaking later at the summit in Indonesia – accused the West of waging ‘hybrid war’ in Ukraine and Kyiv of ‘prolonging’ the conflict, without mentioning Russia’s own involvement in the fighting.
‘There is an attack on the capital. According to preliminary information, two residential buildings were hit in the Pechersk district,’ Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
‘Several missiles were shot down over Kyiv by air defense systems. Medics and rescuers are at the scene of the strikes.’
Moments later, he added: ‘Another hit in the Pechersk district. Multi-storey building.’
Andriy Yermak, head of Zelensky’s staff, said the attack was a response to the president addressing the G20 – ramping up pressure on Russia to stop its attacks.
‘Does anyone seriously think that the Kremlin really wants peace? It wants obedience. But at the end of the day, terrorists always lose,’ Yermak said.
Russian forces have in recent weeks been targeting energy infrastructure across Ukraine and has launched barrages of missiles and swarms of drones.
Around a third of Ukraine’s power-generating capacity has been taken out, causing rolling blackouts across the country just as winter hits.
Kyiv was last targeted by Russian forces nearly one month ago on October 17.
Russia faced mounting diplomatic pressure Tuesday to end its war in Ukraine, as G20 allies and critics alike rued the painful global impact of nearly nine months of conflict.
A draft communique obtained by AFP showed the world’s 20 leading economies coming together to condemn the war’s effects, but still divided on apportioning blame.
The summit has shown that even Russia’s allies have limited patience with a conflict that has inflated food and energy prices worldwide and raised the spectre of nuclear war.
Risking diplomatic isolation, Russia was forced to agree that the war in Ukraine – which Moscow refuses to call a war – has ‘adversely impacted the global economy’.
What are NATO Articles 4 and 5 – and what does it mean if they are implemented?
What is Article 4 of NATO?
If any NATO member – in this case Poland – feels their territory, political independence or security is under threat, they can request a NATO meeting under Article 4.
This is a call for consultations among the allies in the face of a security threat, allowing for more time to determine what steps to take.
At this state of the process, the Allies are able to exchange views and information, and discuss issues prior to reaching an agreement and taking action.
Within hours of the blast in Poland on Tuesday night, two European diplomats said Warsaw requested a NATO meeting under Article 4 for consultations.
This has not been officially triggered yet, but Poland are likely to call for a NATO meeting this morning to discuss the threat as a result of the missile strike.
Article 4 of the NATO treaty is seen as a starting point for major NATO operations as it can lead to members triggering Article 5.
When has Article 4 been invoked?
Article 4 has been officially invoked seven times since the alliance’s creation in 1949.
For instance, on 24 February 2022, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia requested to hold consultations under Article 4 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Poland involved Article 4 in 2014 following increasing tensions in Ukraine, as a result of Russia’s aggressive actions.
Turkey has also invoked Article 4 on multiple occasions, such as in 2015 following terrorist attacks.
And in 2003, Turkey invoked the charter and asked for consultations with NATO members on defensive assistance in the event of a threat to its population or territory resulting from armed conflict in neighbouring Iraq.
What is Article 5?
Article 5 is the cornerstone of the founding treaty of NATO, which was created in 1949 with the U.S. military as its powerful mainstay essentially to counter the Soviet Union and its Eastern bloc satellites during the Cold War.
The charter stipulates that NATO members agree that an armed attack against one or more of them ‘shall be considered an attack against them all’.
If such an attack does occur, each NATO member will assist the country that has been attacked any action ‘it deems necessary’.
This can include the use of armed force with the aim of restoring and maintaining the security of the North Atlantic area.
What does it mean if Article 5 is invoked?
If Poland does trigger Article 4 of the NATO treaty and call a meeting to discuss the security threat, the alliance could decide to trigger Article 5.
What this could mean depends on what action the alliance decide to take, as the charter stipulates that members can take any action ‘it deems necessary’.
This could include the use of armed force – but this must be decided by the alliance.
When has Article 5 been invoked?
Article 5 has only been triggered once before, and this was on behalf of the United States, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Is invoking Article 5 automatic?
But invoking Article 5 is not automatic because the NATO members must agree on what action they want to take.
There is no time limit on how long the consultations under Article 4 can take, and experts say the language is flexible enough to allow each member to decide how far to go in responding to armed aggression against another.