US President Joe Biden said preliminary information suggested it was “unlikely” the missile was fired from within Russia.
On Nov. 15, 2022 a barrage of Russian missiles struck Ukraine causing widespread power outages. US officials assessed that the missiles were likely standoff weapons launched from Russian aircraft outside of Ukraine as airspace over the country remains contested, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said.
As reported by Air and Space Forces Magazine, Ryder added the Department of Defense is still assessing the situation as reports emerged that at least one Russian missile had flown into Poland, killing civilians and damaging facilities in a small town near the Ukraine-Poland border.
Ukrainian officials characterized the missile strikes (that mainly targeted cities and energy facilities), as the most extensive yet in Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February.
They come just days after Russian forces retreated from the city of Kherson, a major strategic blow, and as global leaders—including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian ministers—gathered in Indonesia for the G20 Summit.
Ryder said in a press briefing that the skies above Ukraine have not become more permissive for the Russian Air and Space Force despite the large wave of missiles—Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov wrote on social media that more than 90 were fired.
“The airspace over Ukraine continues to be contested. Again, without going into a lot of detail, I would say that we assess that these strikes are probably being conducted outside of Ukrainian territory. So in other words, standoff types of strikes,” Ryder said.
Ryder also said the Pentagon has assessed that the missiles were “launched from airborne platforms, so Russian aircraft,” but he pushed back on any assumption that Russia is leaning more heavily on its air force now.
Even though the Ukrainian Air Force has claimed it took down roughly 70 missiles, Ryder said he was unable to confirm how many of them the Ukrainians were able to shoot down.
However, as the Associated press reported, the missile strike garnering the most attention was the one that reportedly landed in the Polish village of Przewodów, some 15 miles from the Ukrainian border.
The strike killed two Poles, and images of its destruction have quickly spread across social media, sparking alarm over the potential of NATO being drawn into conflict with Russia—US President Joe Biden has previously pledged to defend “every inch of NATO territory.”
“We are aware of the press reports alleging that two Russian missiles have struck a location inside Poland on the Ukraine border. I can tell you that we don’t have any information at this time to corroborate those reports and are looking into this further,” Ryder said, while reiterating Biden’s pledge to defend NATO territory.
The circumstances surrounding the incident, which marks the first time a NATO country has been directly hit during the almost nine-month conflict, remain unclear. It is not known who fired the missile, or precisely where it was fired from, though the Polish Foreign Ministry has described it as “Russian-made.”
Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have used Russian-made munitions during the conflict, with Ukraine deploying Russian-made missiles as part of its air defense system.
Speaking to reporters after holding an emergency meeting with G7 and NATO leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit, US President Joe Biden said preliminary information suggested it was “unlikely” the missile was fired from within Russia, but was unable to say conclusively until the investigation was complete.
“We agreed to support Poland’s investigation into the explosion … And I’m going to make sure we figure out exactly what happened,” Biden said, adding the leaders offered sympathy over the death of two people. “Then we’re going to collectively determine our next step as we investigate and proceed. There was total unanimity among the folks at the table,” he added.
Following Biden’s statement, a NATO military official told CNN the missile had been tracked by an alliance aircraft flying above Polish airspace at the time of the blast.
“Intel with the radar tracks [of the missile] was provided to NATO and Poland,” the NATO military official added. The NATO official did not say who launched the missile, or where it was fired from.
Russia has denied that it was responsible for the strike, according to media reports.
Under Article 5 of the NATO alliance, an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, with member nations obliged to assist in whatever response is deemed necessary. Article 4, however, calls for consultation and discussion between member states before any action is taken.
Photo credit: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine via Facebook