Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has said there is no evidence to suggest a missile that landed in his country on Tuesday evening, killing two people, was an intentional attack or was launched by Russia.
“Most likely, it was a Russian-made S-300 rocket,” Duda said on Wednesday. But he said there were “many indications” that the missile was fired as part of Ukraine’s air defences and “unfortunately fell on Polish territory”.
Nato’s secretary general confirmed that while an investigation was continuing, initial analysis suggested the incident was “likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory” against Russian cruise missile attacks.
“Let me be clear: this is not Ukraine’s fault,” Jens Stoltenberg said after an emergency meeting of alliance ambassadors in Brussels. “Russia bears the ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”
But he said there was “no indication” that the missile was the result of a deliberate attack or that Russia was preparing offensive military actions against Nato. Based on the preliminary analysis, there had been “no call for Nato article 4”, he added.
Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said Warsaw was still deciding whether to trigger article 4, which allows a Nato member to call a meeting if it feels its territory or security is threatened, but it seemed the step “may not be necessary”.
The missile landed on a grain dryer in the village of Przewodów, 4 miles from the Ukraine border, the first time the territory of a Nato member country had been struck in the almost nine months of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The explosion initially raised global alarm that the war could spill into neighbouring countries, but after an emergency meeting of western leaders at the G20 summit in Bali, the US president, Joe Biden, said the missile was probably not fired from Russia.
Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda, called on Nato to deploy more air defences on the Polish-Ukrainian border and the rest of the alliance’s eastern flank. “The situation confirms that is the right decision and needs swift implementation,” he said.
A German government spokesperson, however, rejected the idea of a no-fly zone, arguing it would risk “further escalation” and direct confrontation between Russia and Nato. The defence ministry said Berlin would offer support to Polish air defence.
Russia, which on Tuesday unleashed a wave of missiles targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure, said the explosion was caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile. Its strikes had been no closer than 35km (22 miles) from the Polish border, it said.
The defence ministry said photos of the scene had been “unequivocally identified by Russian defence industry specialists as elements of an anti-aircraft guided missile of the S-300 air defence system of the Ukrainian air force”.
The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said several countries, including Poland, had made “baseless statements” about Russia’s involvement in “another hysterical, frenzied Russophobic reaction … without having any idea of what had happened”.
Peskov said the reaction showed there was “never a need to rush to judgment, with statements that can escalate the situation”. He praised what he termed Biden’s “restraint” in his response to the blast.
In a tweet issued hours after the incident, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, blamed it on “Russian missile terror”. A senior adviser to Zelenskiy reiterated on Wednesday that Russia was to blame for any “incidents with missiles”.
Mykhailo Podolyak said there was “only one logic. The war was started and is being waged by Russia. Russia massively attacks Ukraine with cruise missiles. Intent, means of execution, risks, escalation – all this is only Russia. And there can be no other explanation for any incidents with missiles.”