Mystery of the missile that stormed Poland: KH-101 or S-300 AD?

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Mystery of the missile that stormed Poland: KH-101 or S-300 AD?
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A “Russian-made” rocket landed in eastern Poland near Ukraine and killed two citizens in explosions on early Wednesday.

Polish Police investigating the site where missile strike killed 2 in Przewodow.

Polish Police investigating the site where missile strike killed 2 in Przewodow. (AFP photo)

By Bidisha Saha, Dipti Yadav: Poland announced in the early hours of Wednesday that a “Russian-made” missile fell in the eastern part of the country within six kilometers of the international border of Ukraine near the border of the village of Przewodow, killing two people in the “tragic incident” as per the NATO statement.

India Today has verified the visual indicators seen in the footage by open-source Twitter handles and narrowed down the geolocation of the explosion to Przewodow in Hrubieszów County of Poland.

The images of the missile posted on some social media handles show that the fragments of the missile either belong to KH-101 (cruise missile from Russia) or S-300 AD (soviet anti-air missile which can either be from Russia or Ukraine). However, it is worth noting that defense anti-aircraft missiles have a comparatively shorter range, making it unlikely that the weapon flew all the way from Russia.

As noted by the military analysts for New York Times, both the Russian and Ukrainian army forces could be using “Soviet-era Russian-made” missiles.

The S-300 Air Defense, a Soviet Union weapon retained by both Russia and Ukraine, has a range of 150 kilometers. But it is highly unlikely that this weapon could be fired by Russia as the distance from the explosion spot to Russian control sites, currently set up in Belarus, stretches to at least 1187 kilometers (approx). Thus, if the suggested missile is S-300 AD, then it was most likely fired from Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Air Forces reported that “around 90 rockets were fired” by Russia over the territory of Ukraine and at least 70 of them were intercepted by their air defense system.

Some initial claims from OSINT handles also suggested a similarity with the Russian missile KH-101, which is a long-range standoff weapon with a range of 3000 kilometers. Around 90 of these stealthy cruise missiles were used by Russia towards Lviv city in Ukraine on Tuesday. If the suggested missile is identified to be KH-101, then both Przewodow and Lviv fall under its radar.

But as per the latest report “Three U.S. officials said preliminary assessments suggested the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian one amid the crushing salvo against Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure Tuesday,” stated the Associated Press in the early hours of Wednesday.

Biden’s Solidarity

The President of the United States, Joe Biden, who is currently attending the G20 summit in Indonesia, was the first to mollify the argument that the missile was fired from Russia owing to its trajectory. Based on the preliminary information available on the projectile, he said “it’s unlikely, in the mind of the trajectory, that it was fired from Russia” at the press briefing. When asked about invoking Article 4 or 5 of the NATO charter, the President said that the “consensus” is to have a meeting of NATO ambassadors to decide on further actions.

This came after he spoke with Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, and offered “full support” for Poland’s investigation of the explosion.

NATO’s stance

Jens Stoltenburg, NATO’s secretary General also spoke to Andrzej Duda and offered support by saying that the alliance is “ monitoring the situation and the Allies are closely consulting”. Stoltenburg will also chair an emergency meeting with the ambassadors of NATO on Wednesday to discuss “this tragic incident”, as per the statement of the spokesperson of NATO, Oana Lungescu.

     Articles 4 & 5 of the NATO Charter

  • Under Article 4, any member state can bring any issue of concern, especially regarding “territorial integrity, political independence or security”, for discussion at North Atlantic Council.
  • Article 5 of the Collective Defence of NATO charter commits its members to mutual defense, stating that “an attack on one is an attack on all.” That is, if a NATO ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the alliance will consider this as an attack against all its allies.

Poland’s Retort

Polish Prime minister Mateusz Morawieckik called for a “matter of urgency” conference with the country’s national security and defense ministers as per a tweet by the government spokesperson, Piotr Mueller.

In connection with the incident Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, summoned the ambassador of the Russian Federation to demand “immediate” and “detailed” explanations.

President Andrzej Duda stated “We have no conclusive evidence at this time as to who launched this missile. Investigations are underway. It was most likely a Russian-made rocket.” He also added that the territorial protection of Poland has been “strengthened” and there are no indications of any such further events.

Russia Denies Allegations by Poland

In a Telegram post, the Ministry of Defense of Russia denied any “strikes were made against targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border by Russian means of destruction” and also stated that the images of the fragments of the weapon being circulated in the media “have nothing to do with” Russia. They claimed that the allegation from Poland is a way of “deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation”.

Ukrainian Version

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy also had a call with Andrzej Duda on the explosion. He accused “terrorist” Russia of staging a “serious provocation” on NATO territory and working with Poland for the purpose of “clarifying all the facts”. He stated it as a “very significant escalation” that goes beyond “our national borders” to target missiles attack at NATO territory.

What Happened in Lyiv City?

Russian forces targeted electrical infrastructure with a widespread missile attack in Lyiv city of Ukraine which is around 72 kilometers south of Przewodow on Tuesday. The Ukrainian Air Forces reported that “around 90 rockets were fired” and at least 70 of them were intercepted by the air defense system.

However, Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine claimed in a Twitter post that the explosion in Poland was not caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile.

The proximity of the explosion to the Ukrainian border raises the possibility that it was either an erring missile or a result of a missile shot down by Ukraine’s air defense systems.





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