Biden Says Unlikely Rocket That Hit Poland Was Fired From Russia
Blast killed two men near Poland’s border with Ukraine. Poland likely to invoke Article 4 of NATO in response.
(Bloomberg) -- US President Joe Biden said a rocket that struck a village in Poland near the Ukraine border was unlikely to have been fired from Russia, comments that may limit the risk of a major escalation in tensions over the incident.
Poland said Tuesday a Russian-made rocket killed two people when it landed about 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the frontier with Ukraine. It happened on the same day that Russian forces fired another barrage of missiles at Ukrainian energy and other infrastructure.
Asked if the rocket had been fired from Russia, Biden told reporters in Bali, where he is attending the Group of 20 summit, “there is preliminary information that contests that.” Given the trajectory of the rocket it was unlikely it was fired from Russia, he added, “but we’ll see.”
The Polish zloty trimmed losses against the dollar as traders interpreted Biden’s remarks as an attempt to prevent the Polish incident feeding into broader frictions with Russia.
Russia has launched missile attacks from occupied areas of Ukraine since it invaded in February. It has also fired them from its neighboring ally Belarus, and from aircraft and ships in the Black Sea.
One official from a Group of Seven country said it was possible Russia’s military missed an intended target from inside Ukraine, or that a Ukrainian countermeasure knocked the rocket off course. There would be little incentive for Russia to deliberately strike Poland, the person said, given the risk of a NATO response.
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied its forces had aimed missiles at targets near Ukraine’s border with Poland. And Polish President Andrzej Duda said it was unclear who had launched the rocket that struck the village.
Poland has said it is still investigating what happened. In the meantime, Duda said he was highly likely to invoke what is known as Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization charter, which would kick off a discussion within the military alliance ahead of any potential response. NATO ambassadors will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning.
There have for months been concerns about the war in Ukraine spreading to other parts of Europe. And the desire to avoid being pulled into a broader conflict has seen NATO refuse to send Ukraine very long-range missiles and advanced fighter jets, and rebuff Kyiv’s requests for help creating an air defense zone over parts of the country.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Tuesday that Russia had attacked with missiles that knocked out power for large parts of the population.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly turning to missile strikes as his troops struggle on the ground in a war in its ninth month. His military recently withdrew from a key city in southern Ukraine that was captured early in the war, the latest setback on the battlefield.
Two people at the scene of the explosion in Poland, who asked not to be named, said a farm building had suffered damage. One said that a blast had shaken the windows in their car some 2 kilometers away. The second said police and military personnel had sealed off the area and asked everyone to leave the farm but that homes nearby had not been evacuated.
Biden spoke by phone with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, offering full U.S. support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation and reaffirming America’s commitment to NATO, according to a White House statement. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Polish counterpart as well.
G-7 leaders met on Wednesday morning on the sidelines of the G-20, alongside those from the European Union and European Commission. In a statement issued afterward they condemned the latest Russian strikes on Ukraine and offered their support for Poland in its investigation.
An official whose leader attended the meeting downplayed the idea the Poland blast would see things escalate toward any sort of military response. Asking not to be identified discussing private matters, the official said leaders were working on rallying behind Ukraine.
European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that he spoke with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and “assured him of full EU unity and solidarity in support of Poland.” Morawiecki said Poland had put its military on heightened alert near the border and would boost troop numbers there.
Earlier on Tuesday, a barrage of missiles targeted Kyiv and other locations across Ukraine, hitting civilians and critical infrastructure in what authorities said was the broadest such assault since the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s air-defense forces said around 100 missiles were launched, exceeding the number from Oct. 10, when a broad attack hit Ukrainian settlements across the country and leveled infrastructure.
The missiles landing in Ukraine knocked out power for some 7 million households across much of the country, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian president’s deputy chief of staff, said in televised comments.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previously warned about the possibility for accidents from the war in Ukraine spilling over into alliance territory, stressing the importance of military communication channels with Russia to prevent misunderstandings from spiraling out of control.
It’s not the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine that objects have entered NATO airspace. In March, a six-ton unmanned reconnaissance drone streaked across eastern Europe and crashed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb.
--With assistance from , , , , and .
(Updates with markets in fourth paragraph)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.