Ukraine softens stance on Poland missile explosion as Kyiv and its NATO partners stress Russia to blame
By Charlie D'Agata, Chris Livesay, Tucker Reals
November 17, 2022 / 8:45 AM / CBS News
NATO, Poland say deadly blast was likely unintentional
NATO and Poland say deadly blast was likely unintentional 02:44
An investigation into the missile blast that left two civilians dead inside Poland this week, highlighting the risks of Russia's war right on the eastern edge of NATO territory, continued on Thursday. NATO, the U.S. and Poland have all said the explosion was most likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile fired to intercept one of the dozens of weapons that Russia launched at Ukraine on Tuesday.
Ukraine initially rejected that explanation outright, blaming Russia for the explosion near a grain processing facility. It was a rare divergence in narratives between Kyiv and its invaluable allies, but Kyiv appeared to be taking a more nuanced position on Thursday, demanding access to the site to draw its own conclusions, but no longer flatly rejecting the possibility that one of its own missiles hit its neighbor and close ally.
What was not in dispute among Ukraine and its partners, at any point, was that the "ultimate responsibility" for the deaths on Polish soil, regardless of which side fired the missile in question, was Russia's.
Police still had the area around the scene of the explosion, in the small Polish village of Przewodow, cordoned off on Thursday. The missile struck people working at a grain facility, killing two men, just a few hundred yards from a school. The school was still closed on Thursday.
Polish soldiers were on the streets, helping to keep residents — who were still in shock — and others away from the site. CBS News was told that U.S. investigators had joined the Polish teams working on the ground to carefully inspect the crater and any evidence from the blast.
Polish officials reiterated remarks first issued by the country's President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday, saying they had seen no evidence the missile was launched by Russia, just as Mr. Biden and the secretary general of NATO alliance said. They all suggested it was more likely an air defense missile fired by Ukraine to intercept one of Russia's rockets that fell just inside Poland's border.
But Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy broke ranks with his country's backers, saying Wednesday that he had no reason to doubt the assessment of his own military commanders, who had denied launching the missile.
"This is not our missile and not our missile strike," Zelenskyy insisted on Wednesday.
President Biden, reacting to those remarks, said: "That's not the evidence."
Whatever evidence there is, the Ukrainians want to see it, and they have been demanding access to the site inside Poland. President Duda's said on Thursday that Ukrainian officials would likely be given access, but he did not say how quickly.
There did appear to be a softening of the rhetoric from Ukraine on Thursday.
"We need our specialists to join the work of the international investigation, and for us to get access to all the data from the site of the explosion available to our partners," Zelenskyy said, without reiterating his staunch denial of Ukrainian responsibility for the deadly blast.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat went further, telling CBS News that it didn't matter whose missile actually fell inside Poland, as even if it was launched by Ukraine it would have been aimed at stopping a Russian airstrike, so the blame is Russia's.
Ignat accepted that when air defense systems intercept a missile, the weapons can fall to the ground "uncontrollably." He added that Ukraine's Air Force was still gathering evidence on its side of the border on Thursday.
The NATO chief, Mr. Biden and his counterparts in Europe who've supported Zelenskyy not only politically, but with a huge supply of weapons during the nearly-nine-month war on Ukraine have all made it clear that regardless of which side fired the missile, the blame ultimately rests on Vladimir Putin's shoulders.
The explosion was one of dozens of deadly missile blasts this week — the only one that didn't occur inside Ukraine.
Russia has unleashed its most intense round of strikes on cities and towns across Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24, including some that struck western Ukraine, far from the front lines and close to Polish soil.
On Thursday, Ukrainians awoke to yet another barrage of missiles.
Several were reportedly shot down by Ukraine's air defenses in the front-line city of Dnipro, but while those systems have taken out a majority of the rockets launched by Putin's forces, they aren't perfect.
CBS News visited the scene of one blast caused by a missile that got through the defenses on Thursday, wounding 14 people in Dnipro, including a 15-year-old girl who was undergoing surgery.
Dnipro Mayor Boris Filatov posted a photo on social media Thursday that he said showed the jacket of a woman who was carrying out her duties as a city employee when shrapnel from the missile tore into her.
A large hole with scorched edges was visible in the fabric. Filatov said the woman was also undergoing surgery.
In a post to his channel on the Telegram social media platform, Zelenskyy shared a dashcam video from a vehicle driving down a road that he said was in Dnipro when a massive fire ball appears further down the street and an explosion is heard.
"A peaceful city and people's desire to live a normal life. To go to work, on business. A missile strike!," he said, calling the ongoing missile attacks on his country further evidence that "the terrorist state really wants to bring Ukrainians only as much pain and suffering as possible."https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ukraine-news-russia-war-poland-missile-nato-zelenskyy-biden/