On November 15, 2022, a missile struck the village of Przewodów in Poland near Ukraine’s border, killing two Polish citizens. Also, on November 15, 2022, around 90 Russian cruise missiles and kamikaze drones struck Ukraine’s power generation infrastructure.
Following the missile strike on its territory, Polish President Andrzej Duda, on the premise that Russian forces launched the missile that struck Poland, discussed the possibility of invoking Article 4 of the NATO charter with Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) denied reports that a Russian missile had hit Poland, terming the accusation as “deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation.”
Later, on November 15, Duda acknowledged no evidence of who fired the missile.
Zelensky Adamant On Blaming Russia
Duda’s partial retraction, however, didn’t stop Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from blaming Russia for the incident. In his nightly video address that day, he said that “Russian missiles hit Poland” and described the incident as an infringement upon “collective security” and as a “significant escalation.”
Refuting the Ukrainian claim, the RuMoD on November 16, 2022, stated that the footage of the wreckage detected in Przewodów, published in the evening on November 15 in Poland, has been identified by professionals of Russian defense industrial complex as elements of S-300 air defense guided missile of Ukrainian Air Force.
Also, on November 16, US President Joe Biden questioned Zelensky’s contention that the missile that struck Poland was Russian, telling reporters, “that’s not the evidence.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda said it was “highly probable” that the missile was launched by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense.
“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 the Russian side launched it,” he said.
However, Zelensky refuted the Polish claim and insisted that the missile was not Ukrainian.
“I do not doubt that it was not our missile or our missile strike,” Zelensky told Ukrainian news outlets, adding, “I want us to be fair, and if it was the use of our air defense, then I want that evidence.”
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC that he agreed with Poland’s assessment. Still, in a bizarre twist, he added, “But the main message is that Russia bears the ultimate responsibility because this would not have happened hadn’t Russia waged a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.”
Wild accusations, retractions, and bizarre twists of logic emanating from Poland, Ukraine, US, and NATO officials notwithstanding, what happened on November 15, 2022, can be summed up in one sentence:
A Ukrainian S-300 missile struck a grain dryer in the Polish village of Przewodów near Ukraine’s border, killing two Polish citizens.
Ukrainian Missile Strike In Poland
The logical follow-up question would be – Was the Ukrainian strike deliberate or an accident because of a stray missile? Here are the facts that could help you decide.
According to RuMoD, Russian cruise missiles and drones didn’t strike a Ukrainian target less than 35-kilometer from the Polish border. The RuMoD claim has neither been refuted by Ukraine nor Poland.
At first thought, you might be inclined to question how a Ukrainian air defense (AD) missile could stray in a direction opposite to the direction of attack by a Russian cruise missile. It’s possible.
Because cruise missiles are capable of waypoint navigation, in other words, the Russian cruise missile could have approached the Polish border and turned around to strike 35 kilometers deep into Ukraine.
If that happened, the Ukrainian missile could be a stray. But then stray missiles are designed to self-destruct in flight.
The fact that the missile struck the ground could either point to a failure of the self-destruct mechanism or the missile was launched in a surface-to-surface attack mode, which would be very deliberate.
A radar plot of the missile would establish whether it was a stray missile or deliberately targeted at a surface target in Poland.
US AWACS covering the engagement likely have such a plot as does Ukraine. Former US Ambassador Kurt Volker told the Washington Examiner. “The Ukrainians have very good data collection — they have good radars and track every single missile.
“I’ve been to their headquarters where they do this — [it’s] very sophisticated. They know what’s going on. I’m sure the Poles do as well. I’m sure we do as well.”
Ukraine’s Ultimate Goal
The big question is if a stray Ukrainian S-300 missile struck Poland and accidentally killed two Polish citizens, why blame Russia and threaten to invoke Article 4?
Most likely, Ukraine blamed Russia because it wants NATO to establish a no-fly zone over western Ukraine. Such a zone would secure its supply lines from the West and protect Ukrainian power generation infrastructure from Russian attacks to the extent that would enable Ukraine to survive the approaching winter.
Unfortunately for Ukraine, and perhaps fortunately for the world, the US likely assesses that establishing such a no-fly zone over Ukraine would lead to a direct conflict between US and Russian forces, which the US wants to avoid.
Zelensky may have hoped that pinning the blame on Russia for the missile strike on Poland would make the US relent on its policy of confrontation with Russia.
On November 16, 2022, referring to the missile strike, Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted: Poland. This is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is the reality we’ve been warning about. We were asking to close the sky, because sky has no borders. Not for (Russian) uncontrolled missiles. Not for the threat they carry for our EU&NATO neighbours. Gloves are off. Time to win.
Poland. This is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is the reality we've been warning about. We were asking to close the sky, because sky has no borders. Not for ?? uncontrolled missiles. Not for the threat they carry for our EU&NATO neighbours. Gloves are off. Time to win.
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) November 15, 2022
Reznikov was baiting Poland and, in turn, NATO to use the incident to establish a no-fly zone.
While the world may never know if the Ukrainian strike on Poland that killed two Polish citizens was deliberate or otherwise, the US, Ukraine, and likely Poland see the truth.
And whatever the fact be, it is clear that Ukraine is acting against clearly articulated US interests. Holding Russia responsible for the Ukrainian strike on Polish territory, as some NATO and US officials have done, will only encourage Ukraine to continue acting against US interests.
- Vijainder K Thakur is a retired IAF Jaguar pilot. He is also an author, software architect, entrepreneur, and military analyst. VIEWS PERSONAL
- Reach out to the author at vkthakur (at) gmail.com