Thursday

1st Dec 2022

Poland deaths not caused by Russian attack, Nato says

  • Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg (Photo: nato.int)
Listen to article

A missile that killed two Polish people was likely a stray Ukrainian one and there's no sign of a deliberate Russian attack, Nato said on Wednesday (16 November).

"Our preliminary analysis suggests the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian air-defence missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We have no indications Russia is planning offensive military action against Nato allies," he added.

The incident "hasn't changed our fundamental assessment of the [Russian] threat against Nato allies," he also said.

Stoltenberg spoke following an emergency meeting of Nato ambassadors in Brussels, called after the war claimed its first victims on allied territory on Tuesday— two Poles at a grain storage site in Przewodów, a village in eastern Poland near the Ukraine border.

Polish president Andrzej Duda also said in Warsaw on Wednesday: "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."

"It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence," he added.

Initial remarks by some EU and Ukrainian ministers had blamed the deaths on a Russian rocket, prompting feverish talk in media and social media of a potential Nato-Russia clash.

Nato's investigation into exactly what happened was still "ongoing", Stoltenberg said.

But he reiterated that even if a Ukrainian missile had hit Przewodów by accident, Russia was still morally to blame.

"It's not Ukraine's fault," Stoltenberg said several times on Wednesday.

"Russia bears the ultimate responsibility for what happened in Poland yesterday. This is a direct result of the ongoing war and wave of Russian [cruise missile] attacks against Ukraine yesterday. Of course, Ukraine has a right to shoot down those missiles," he said.

Poland and Nato allies would "continue to support Ukraine in its right to self-defence," he added, amid a new arms-delivery pledge by Sweden.

"Our top priority now is to provide air-defence systems to Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.

Tuesday's blast in Poland came after more than 100 Russian missiles and drones rained down the same day on Ukraine, where 6,500 civilians have been killed by Russian fire since February, according to UN figures.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was trying to break Ukrainian morale, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, Ukraine's former EU ambassador, told EUobserver from Kyiv.

But "the mood here is opposite", he said.

"The more Putin tries to make Ukraine capitulate, the more motivation to resist it brings," he said.

Putin "knows he's losing," Yelisieiev said, following recent victories by the Ukrainian army on the ground in east Ukraine.

"I don't know how anybody around the world could ever shake his [Putin's] hand again, given Russia's style of warfare against Ukraine," the Ukrainian diplomat, who has taken up arms against the Russian invasion, added.

Propaganda value

The likely fact a Ukrainian shell hit Poland is a gift for Russian propaganda, which has long tried to stir anti-Ukrainian feeling in Polish society.

But at the same time, Nato's candour on the painful truth disarmed Russian info-war allegations that the West was trying to orchestrate a conflict with Russia.

"We're prepared to handle situations like this in a firm, calm, resolute way, but also in a way that prevents further escalation," Stoltenberg said.

"Nato allies reacted in a prudent and responsible way," he said, referring to how Nato leaders handled the flurry of initial anti-Russian allegations on Tuesday.

"We are preparing for incidents like this ... to prevent them from spiralling out of control," he added.

Tuesday's deaths saw leaders from around Europe voice solidarity with Poland.

The Polish government initially considered asking Nato to invoke Article 4 of its treaty — emergency high-level talks on a clear and present danger — but later changed its mind, downgrading the crisis.

Stoltenberg said Nato was ready to "very quickly" move extra air-defence planes and ships into the region to help allies, if the situation changed.

But both he and Germany ruled out a Nato-imposed no-fly zone over western Ukraine, given that this would make Nato a party to the war, if it fired at Russian jets or air-defence systems on the ground to do the job.

Hungary challenges new EU loan plan for Ukraine

The European Commission wants to raise some €18bn for Ukraine. But the proposal is already being challenged by Hungary, which remains unhappy it has yet to receive Covid-pandemic recovery funds from Brussels.

Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine

Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday asked for air defence systems and generators, as Russia has been pounding Ukraine's vital energy infrastructure.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us