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Ukraine updates: Kyiv requests access to Poland blast site

November 16, 2022

Kyiy called for a joint investigation into the explosion in Poland that killed two people, saying they have evidence of "Russian trace" without offering details to the public. DW has the latest.

Police personnel secure a road, amid reports of two explosions, in Przewodow, Poland, November 15, 2022.
Kyiv's partners say initial investigation suggests that explosion was likely caused by shooting down of a Russian missileImage: Jakub Orzechowski/Agencja Wyborcza.pl/REUTERS

Ukraine on Wednesday requested "immediate access" to the site in Przewodow in eastern Poland, where an explosion on Tuesday killed two people.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, said Ukraine has evidence of a "Russian trace," without providing evidence.

Danilov called for a "joint examination" of the missiles that crashed in Poland, saying Kyiv was ready to hand over information to Kyiv's partners.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said Wednesday he has no "doubt that this is not our missile." "I believe that this was a Russian missile, based on our military reports," Zelenskyy said in televised remarks.

In his regular nightly address, Zelenskyy said: "We want to establish all the details, each fact. That's why we need... access to all the data that our partners have and the site of the explosion."

Earlier Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said it was "highly probable" that the explosion near the Polish-Ukrainian border was caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile. 

"Ukraine's defense was launching their missiles in various directions and it is highly probable that one of these missiles unfortunately fell on Polish territory," Duda said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed similar remarks, telling reporters after an emergency meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that they had no "indication that this was a result of a deliberate attack."

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, November 16:

Ukrainian military victory not likely anytime soon: US General

Top US general Mark Milley said Wednesday there was a low probability that Ukrainian military forces could drive Russians out of Ukrainian territories it occupies, including in Crimea.

"The probability of a Ukrainian military victory, kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include... Crimea, the probability of that happening anytime soon, is not high military," Milley, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

"Ukraine will continue to endure. Ukraine is not going to back down," Miley said, adding Ukraine was free, and "they want to remain free."

Miley and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin both said the US would support Ukraine for "as long as it takes." 

US expresses 'full' confidence in Polish investigation

The US said it has "full confidence" in the Polish government's investigation of the explosion near their border with Ukraine and would not get "ahead of their work."

Andrienne Watson, the spokerson for the National Security Council, said in a statement that they had seen nothing "that contradicts (Polish) President Duda's preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland."

Relatedly, Polish President Andrzej Duda met US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns in Warsaw on Wednesday evening, the head of Poland's National Security Bureau said.

"The conversation concerned the general security situation, the context of recent events came up," Jacek Siewiera wrote on Twitter.

Czechs plan to train up to 4,000 Ukrainian troops

The Czech government plans to provide training to as many as 4,000 Ukrainian troops over the next year, Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said.

The training would be done in five four-week cycles with up to 800 troops attending each, and cost 975 million crowns (€40 million or $41.6 million), the ministry said.

According to Cernochova, Ukraine has shown interest in training of mainly mechanized battalions and also medics, engineering and chemical troops.

NATO member Czech Republic has strongly backed Ukraine since Russia's attack in February this year, and has sent it light and heavy weapons and ammunition.

The training program would be started with the first batch of troops this year and eventually be folded under a planned European Union training scheme for Ukraine.

The Czech Republic will also send 55 troops as instructors or members of command structures of the planned EU training mission in other EU member states. Both parts of the plan require parliamentary approval.

MI5 chief says expulsion of Russian spies has delivered significant blow

The expulsion of more than 400 suspected Russian spies from across Europe this year has struck the "most significant strategic blow" against Moscow in recent history and taken Putin by surprise, Britain's domestic spy chief said.

In his annual update on the threat to Britain, Security Service (MI5) Director General Ken McCallum said a massive number of Russian officials had been expelled from across the world including over 600 from Europe of which more than 400 were judged to be spies.

"This has struck the most significant strategic blow against the Russian Intelligence Services in recent European history," he said in a speech at MI5's London headquarters. "And together with coordinated waves of sanctions, the scale has taken Putin by surprise."

McCallum said Britain had refused more than 100 Russian diplomatic visa applications on national security grounds since then.

Britain has been one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine since the Russian invasion, and McCallum said the importance of that backing was reflected in Moscow making "silly claims" such as Britain being involved in blowing up Nord Stream gas pipelines in September.

Baerbock holds Russia responsible for strike in Poland

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is holding Russia responsible for the deadly missile strike in Poland.

"These people would not have died if it were not for this brutal Russian war of aggression," Baerbock said.

In the hours leading up to the impact, which NATO suggests was probably caused by Ukrainian air defense, there had been a barrage of air strikes on Ukrainian cities, including the far-western city of Lviv, she said.

"The last 18 hours have shown how important it is that we act prudently in these moments, but above all also together as the European Union, as NATO states," Baerbock said.

As long as the war in Ukraine is not over, the people in the country will have to be supplied with electricity, energy and water over the next weeks and months, she added.

Ukraine extends martial law to mid-February

The Ukrainian parliament has extended its martial law and the mobilization of the army for another 90 days. This means that the two measures will apply until February 19, 2023.

Just under 300 members of parliament voted in favor of the fourth extension since the Russian invasion on February 24, more than the 226 votes needed.

Martial law gives the military extended rights and restricts civil liberties such as the right to demonstrate.

NASAMS air defense system have 100% success rate in Ukraine — Pentagon

US-provided NASAMS air defense systems have had a 100% success rate in Ukraine intercepting Russian missiles, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

Russia was pounding cities across Ukraine with missiles on Tuesday, in attacks that Kyiv said were the heaviest wave of missile strikes in nearly nine months of war.

Ukraine said it shot down most of the incoming Russian missiles with its air defense missiles. However, according to NATO, an errant Ukrainian air defense interceptor was likely the cause of an explosion in Poland.

Austin, speaking at the start of a routine virtual meeting of dozens of defense ministers on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, said the United States would work with Poland to gather more information on the explosion, but he did not assign blame.

Russia bans entry to Irish PM and 51 other officials

Moscow said it banned 52 Irish politicians, including Prime Minister Micheal Martin, from entering Russia and accused Dublin of waging "an aggressive anti-Russian propaganda campaign."

The ban — which also includes Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the foreign, justice and finance ministers and a number of parliamentarians — was the latest in a barrage of largely symbolic moves by Russia against prominent figures from Western countries that have condemned the war in Ukraine.

As a member of the European Union, Ireland has joined sanctions against Russia over its February 24 invasion of Ukraine and the two countries have expelled some of each other's diplomats.

Russia, not Ukraine, bears ultimate responsibility for blast in Poland — NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said a deadly explosion in Poland was probably the result of Ukrainian anti-aircraft defenses but that Russia bears "ultimate responsibility" for the war.

"An investigation into this incident is ongoing, and we need to await its outcome. ... But we have no indication that this was the result of a deliberate attack," Stoltenberg said after chairing a meeting of NATO ambassadors.

"Our preliminary analysis suggests that the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks," he added.

However, Stoltenberg stressed that the incident was not Ukraine's fault. "Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine," he said.

Germany rejects no-fly zone over Ukraine

Establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would pose a threat of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO, a German government spokesperson said, after a missile blast in Poland near the Ukrainian border killed two people on Tuesday.

The spokesperson rejected this and said, "Together with all our allies we are agreed that we want to avoid a further escalation of this war in Ukraine."

Berlin said it will offer support to Poland's air defense, a spokesperson for the German Defense Ministry said at a regular news conference on Wednesday.

Ukraine reports power mostly back on after missile strikes

Most power outages after Russian missile strikes on Tuesday have been fixed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, adding that repair teams and power providers had worked through the night.

"Most of the power customers are once again hooked up to the network in the various regions," he said in a video message.

Still, thousands of households in a string of western and northern regions are having difficulty getting full access to electricity, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a deputy head of the presidential office, said.

Power companies also warned that customers should be prepared for unannounced outages as repairs continue.

Pope asks God to 'hurry up' and end Ukraine war

Pope Francis condemned the latest wave of missile attacks on Ukraine, calling for a cease-fire to avert the risk of escalation of the conflict and asking God to "hurry up" to end it.

"I learned with pain and concern of a fresh and even fiercer missile attack on Ukraine, which caused deaths and damage to much civilian infrastructure," Francis said.

"Let us pray so that the lord converts the hearts of those who still bet on war and make the desire for peace prevail in martyred Ukraine in order to avoid escalation and to open the path to a cease-fire and dialogue," he said.

A few minutes later, in other comments on Ukraine, he added, "We can pray for Ukraine saying, if you will, 'Hurry up, Lord.'"

Russia launched 110 missiles and 10 Iranian-made attack drones at Ukraine on Tuesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the main target of the missile flurry was the country's energy infrastructure.

Last month, the pope, for the first time, directly begged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the "spiral of violence and death" in Ukraine.

Rheinmetall to deliver 15 tanks to Slovakia in Ukraine's ring swap

The German armaments group Rheinmetall will deliver 15 Leopard 2 A4 main battle tanks to Slovakia as part of a ring exchange commissioned by the German government. Slovakia, for its part, will hand over other military equipment to Ukraine.

According to Rheinmetall, an agreement was reached between representatives of Germany, Slovakia and Rheinmetall in Brussels on Tuesday. The first Leopard is scheduled for delivery in December.

In the so-called ring exchanges, Germany does not deliver weapons directly to Ukraine, but rather to NATO partners who provide Soviet-made military equipment to Ukrainian forces.

Russia says its strikes in Ukraine were no closer than 35 km to Poland

Russia's Defense Ministry said that its strikes on Ukraine on Tuesday were no closer than 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the Polish border.

"High-precision strikes were carried out on targets only on the territory of Ukraine and at a distance of no closer than 35 kilometers from the Ukrainian-Polish border," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

According to Konashenkov, the cause of the explosion in Poland was the Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile.

NATO member Poland's president said earlier that Poland had no concrete evidence showing who fired a missile that struck a Polish grain facility some 6 kilometers (4 miles) inside the border with Ukraine and killed two people.

Biden, Sunak condemn 'barbaric' attacks on civilians in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Russian President Vladimir Putin's targeting of Ukrainian civilians "barbaric" at a G20 summit in Bali.

"At a moment when world leaders here in Bali are seeking to make progress on world peace, Putin is striking civilian targets — children, women. I mean, it's almost — my words, not yours — barbaric," Biden said at a meeting with Sunak.

The British prime minister, meeting Biden for the first time since taking office, said: "I agree with your words — barbaric."

Russia has been firing waves of missiles, often at civilians, across Ukraine in the wake of being pushed out of the city of Kherson, which Moscow had occupied and illegally declared to be part of Russia following a self-styled "referendum."

"It's way over the top," Biden said. "Russia can and should stop the war."

Biden told Sunak they were "on the same page in terms of supporting the Ukrainian people's right to be free of all Russian forces in their country."

Sweden to send military, humanitarian aid to Ukraine

Sweden said it would provide Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid worth €343 million ($356 million) to help it cope with the upcoming winter.

Stockholm will contribute military aid worth some three billion kronor €276 million ($287 million) plus additional humanitarian aid of 720 million kronor (€66 million or $69 million), the government said.

The military aid will include an air defense system and ammunition, but the government would not disclose which system or the value due to "operational secrecy".

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the aid package, Sweden's ninth to Ukraine since the war began, was its largest so far.

The humanitarian package will be channeled through the World Food Programme, World Bank funds and Ukraine Green Recovery Programme, while the military aid also includes winter supplies such as tents and clothing.

Part of the humanitarian aid will also go to Ukraine's impoverished neighbor Moldova, which has taken in a large number of Ukrainian refugees and has suffered direct consequences of the war, including a halt in electricity supplies from Ukraine.

CIA chief visits Kyiv after warning Moscow

CIA Director William Burns has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and top intelligence officials to brief them on his warning to Moscow against using nuclear weapons, a US official said.

Burns traveled to Kyiv on Tuesday, one day after holding talks in Ankara with Russia's spy chief Sergei Naryshkin on the war and Moscow's threat to use tactical nuclear weapons to defend its interests.

That was the highest level face-to-face meeting of US and Russian officials since the beginning of the war, and Burns delivered a firm warning to Naryshkin "on the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, and the risks of escalation to strategic stability," according to a White House statement.

Then Burns traveled to Ukraine to inform Zelensky and his Ukraine counterparts on the talks with Naryshkin, and to reiterate US support for Kyiv's war effort.

Burns was in Kyiv on a day when Russian forces launched a barrage of missiles striking targets across Ukraine, including the capital city. However, he was safely inside the US embassy at the time, and has now departed.

Reactors at two Ukrainian nuclear plants shut down after Russian strikes

Several reactors at two Ukrainian nuclear power plants automatically shut down as a result of Russian missile strikes on Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, adding that millions of people were left without electricity.

"As a result of the strikes, automation today disabled several nuclear units at two stations — these are calculated consequences, and the enemy knew exactly what he was doing," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Zelenskyy did not say which power plants were affected but said that strikes hit the capital Kyiv as well as Lviv, Rivne and Volyn in the west, Kharkiv in the northeast, Kryvyi Rih and Poltava in the center, Odesa and Mikolaiv in the south and Zhytomyr in the north.

More on the war in Ukraine

World leaders used the G20 declaration to slam Russia's war in Ukraine, which has dominated the summit in Bali. They also expressed economic concerns, especially for middle-income countries.

rm, dh/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)