Likely errant Ukrainian missile strike in Poland nearly escalates into World War III as Russia initially blamed

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has threatened to expand into another world war at times, and an incident Tuesday in a Polish town near the border with Ukraine nearly sparked a feared global conflagration.

Two Polish citizens were killed when a missile struck a grain silo near the village of Przewodow which is located near the Polish-Ukrainian border, and initial assessments were that the weapon had been fired by Russia, the Washington Examiner reported.

Given that Poland is a member of NATO, and the Article 5 clause of the NATO agreement specifies that an attack on one member constitutes an attack against all members, there were real and immediate concerns that the deadly explosion in Poland could result in a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia.

For what it is worth, the Examiner noted that the Russian Defense Ministry immediately denied any responsibility for the strike in a Telegram post that also said that claims to the contrary were “a deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation.”

Poland determines missile not fired by Russia

Thankfully, calmness prevailed, as Reuters reported that it was quickly determined that while the missile that struck in Polish territory was indeed Russian-made, it was likely one that had been fired by the Ukrainians and not the Russian military.

“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 in a statement. “It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense.”

Russia had launched a barrage of missile strikes against the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and other targets in that country — which the U.S. government strongly condemned — to which the Ukrainians had responded with a barrage of their own anti-aircraft defense missiles, such as the old Russian-made S-300 missiles, and the most likely scenario is that one of those Ukrainian missiles accidentally fell in Polish territory.

U.S. admits missile likely came from Ukraine

“We have full confidence in the Polish government’s investigation of the explosion near their border with Ukraine, and we commend them for the professional and deliberate manner in which they are conducting it,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “We will not get ahead of their work and remain in close touch with our Polish counterparts, as we are still gathering information.”

“We have seen nothing that contradicts President Duda’s preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland,” she added. “We will continue to assess and share any new information transparently as it becomes available. We will also continue to stay in close touch with the Ukrainians regarding any information they have to fill out the picture.”

Even President Joe Biden, when asked about the missile strike during the G20 summit in Indonesia and whether it had been launched by Russia, told reporters, “There is preliminary information that contests that. I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate. But it is — I — it’s unlikely, in the minds of the trajectory, that it was fired from Russia. But we’ll see. We’ll see.”

Ukrainian denial, Russia still gets blamed

Yet, even as NATO and Poland and the U.S. all acknowledge that Russia didn’t fire the missile that hit Polish territory, and that all available evidence points to Ukraine, Reuters noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that his forces were responsible and has demanded that his nation be included in any further investigation of the incident.

On top of that, top NATO and U.S. officials also added that regardless of the fact that the missile was likely launched by the Ukrainians, they still held Russia ultimately responsible for the incident, presumably due to starting the war in the first place as well as for the initial barrage of Russian missiles that necessitated the anti-missile counter-barrage of Ukrainian rockets.

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