Biden says it’s ‘unlikely’ that missile that hit Poland was fired from Russia
NUSA DUA, Indonesia, and KYIV, Ukraine — President Biden said it was “unlikely” that a missile that caused an explosion in eastern Poland was fired from Russia, but he said the information was “preliminary” and said Poland’s allies would support a full investigation.
The explosion came as Russia unleashed a wave of missile strikes Tuesday at cities across Ukraine, hitting residential buildings and knocking out electricity in urban areas. In neighboring Poland, two people were killed in an explosion at a grain processing facility, just a few miles from its border with western Ukraine.
In a late night press release, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a “Russia-made missile had dropped on the village of Przewodów,” and it had summoned Russia’s ambassador to demand an “immediate and detailed explanation.”
Earlier, the Polish government held an emergency meeting to deal with a “crisis situation,” according to a government spokesman, and planned to invoke Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which allows member countries to “consult together” should the “territorial integrity, political independence or security” of any of them be threatened.
Russia, meanwhile, said that any suggestion its weapons had struck Poland was an “intentional provocation.”
Biden calls an emergency meeting in Bali
The strikes came as world leaders were gathered in Bali for the G-20 summit.
President Biden gathered a small group together — the heads of G-7 nations as well as the European Union and European Commission — for an emergency meeting on the explosion in Poland.
Afterward, Biden was asked whether it the missile had come from Russia.
“There is preliminary information that contests that,” Biden said. “I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate it. But it is unlikely … that it was fired from Russia,” Biden said, citing the “trajectory.”
“But we’ll see,” he said.
Biden had earlier called Polish President Andrzej Duda and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In his call with Duda, the White House said he reaffirmed the U.S. “ironclad commitment to NATO.”
Biden said he briefed leaders on the calls, and they agreed to support Poland in its investigation. “I’m going to make sure we figure out exactly what happened,” he said.
He also condemned the attacks on Ukraine, calling them “totally unconscionable,” and said the United States would do whatever it takes to support Ukraine.
Ukraine says Russia fired about 100 missiles
In Ukraine, the air force said Russia fired about 100 missiles at Ukraine over the course of several hours on Tuesday afternoon and evening.
“Does anyone seriously think that the Kremlin really wants peace?” Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter. “It wants obedience. But at the end of the day, terrorists always lose.”
The attacks came a day after the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution saying Russia should be held accountable for the war it’s waging in Ukraine, and should be required to pay reparations. And just last Friday, Russia suffered a major military setback as it was forced to retreat from the strategically important southern city of Kherson.
Ukraine said it shot down about 70 of the 100 incoming missiles, but others reached their targets in the capital Kyiv, the northeastern city Kharkiv, the western city of Lviv, and the southern city of Odesa, among others.
In Kyiv, two residential buildings were hit and one person was killed, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
Video posted by the mayor’s office showed an apartment building in Kyiv engulfed in heavy flames and thick smoke.
Half of Kyiv loses power
The mayor also said about half of the capital was without power.
The northeastern city of Kharkiv was without power, according to officials there.
“The United States strongly condemns Russia’s latest missile attacks against Ukraine,” said Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who was at the G-20 in Bali.
“The United States and our allies and partners will continue to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself, including air defense systems. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Sullivan said.
Earlier Tuesday, Zelenskyy spoke to the G-20 by video, saying his country is determined to recover all of its territory taken by Russia.
“In order to free our entire land, we will have to fight for a while longer,” Zelenskyy said.
There are some international calls for peace talks to end war in Ukraine. But Zelenskyy noted that the two countries reached interim agreements after Russia first invaded in 2014.
Russia used this period of relative calm to regroup militarily, he said, adding that Ukraine would not fall for this again.
We will not allow Russia to wait us out and build up its forces,” said Zelenskyy.
In his speech, the president repeatedly called the G20 the ‘G19,’ saying Russia should be excluded.
Russia turns to air power
With Russia’s ground forces unable to make much headway in recent months, and being significantly pushed back in many instances, Russia is increasingly relying on airstrikes.
Russia launched a heavy bombing campaign against Ukraine’s energy systems in October, damaging around 40% of the country’s electricity system, according to Ukrainian officials.
Ukrainian workers have scrambled to repair the damaged power grid. However, many parts of the country, including the capital, were suffering power outages for hours every day, even before the latest attack.
The Russian airstrikes come as temperatures are rapidly falling and a long, cold winter looms.
Ukraine’s limited air defenses have proven more effective than expected in protecting key government and military facilities.
However, the recent Russian campaign has targeted such a wide range of civilian and energy facilities that Ukraine has been unable to protect them all.
Franco Ordoñez reported from Nusa Dua; Greg Myre from Kyiv.