After yesterday afternoon’s mass rush to judgment by many in the media regarding the missile that landed in Poland, this morning they are being forced to walk back their initial claims. As have a number of politicians and government officials in Ukraine, Poland and across Europe. The reason for this because the preliminary investigation has revealed the missile was not fired by the Russian military. It seems the missile was likely launched by Ukrainian air defense forces likely during a Russian cruise missile attack. Components of the missile, an SA-10 Grumble, came down near the Polish village of Przewodów and killed two Poles.
Both NATO and the Polish government said earlier there is no indication of a deliberate Russian attack. In Ukraine, the government in Kiev has amended its position on the matter. After vociferously blaming Russia for the act, government officials have become rather quiet and are requesting access to the site of the blast. In Brussels NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said there will be no Article 4 meeting until the investigations have been completed.
Yesterday’s incident caused anxiety and concern around the Western world. Since the start of the war in Ukraine the possibility of the fighting spilling across the border into the territory of a NATO member-state and widening the conflict has been a major concern from Washington to Brussels. The first reports from Poland made it appear as if NATO’s greatest fear was coming to life. Luckily, as time went on it became clear this was not the case.
It’s been a tension-filled afternoon and evening on NATO’s Eastern Flank after a Russian-made missile landed in Poland, a short distance away from the Ukrainian frontier. It did not take long for the media to assume the missile belonged to the Russian military. In the absence of facts, the media speculated, and soon the Polish government called an emergency meeting. Social media reports took over from here and it was not very long before World War III was trending on Twitter and other platforms this afternoon.
As it stands now, there has been no confirmation that the missiles were Russian, in spite of supposed remarks by a US ‘intelligence official’ that they were. The US government, as well as other Western allies are investigating but have not been able to confirm the cause of the explosion. Two Polish citizens were killed in the blast, however little beyond this is known for certain. Consultations are taking place across Europe this evening. Poland has invoked Article 4 and tomorrow NATO ambassadors will meet to discuss the matter in detail.
Russia has denied that any of its missiles had been targeted at any points in proximity to the Polish border. The incident did occur around the same time a heavy wave of Russian missiles struck power infrastructure targets around Ukraine, causing considerable damage.
As the night goes on, hopefully more solid information will become known. We’ll follow up with an update here late tomorrow morning.
The referendums held in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine have drawn to a close and the votes tallied. Russian-installed election officials in all four regions report overwhelming majorities in favor of becoming part of Russia. The referendums took place in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Combined, these four areas represent fifteen percent of Ukrainian territory. Now, their days of belonging to Ukraine are numbered.
As expected, the referendum results have prompted Russia to move rapidly to annex these regions. Annexation is expected by the end of the week. From that point forward, in the view of the Kremlin, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will become sovereign Russian soil. Putin will address Russia’s parliament on the subject on Friday and Russian lawmakers could consider annexation legislation as early as next Monday.
Today, Russia has swung back to playing the nuclear threat card, intending to deter Ukraine from moving to retake the territories after the annexation becomes official. As sovereign Russian soil, the territories will be placed under the protection of the entire Russian military arsenal including nuclear weapons. Moscow is also hoping to influence the tenor of the war and warn off the United States and Europe from continuing to contribute significant military and other material support to Ukraine as the war drags on. It is apparent the referendum and coming annexation, coupled with the latest nuclear threats from Moscow appear primed to move the war into a new, potentially more dangerous phase.
Then there is the matter of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipeline ruptures beneath the Baltic Sea on Monday. It is becoming apparent the leaks were deliberate, which leads to the question of who would be responsible for an act of sabotage on the pipelines. That subject will be discussed in tomorrow’s post.
The Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine commenced late Monday following missile strikes against military targets in western Ukraine and preparatory artillery fire strikes against Ukrainian forces in the east. Russia has spent the past two weeks reinforcing and resupplying its forces in the Donbas region in preparation for this moment. Ukraine had also resupplied and reinforced its ground forces in the east to the best of Kiev’s ability. These efforts have attracted Russian attention, as was made apparent by the missile attacks on military targets deep in the Ukrainian rear areas like Lviv. Disrupting the flow of war supplies from outside Ukraine has become a high priority for Russia, a lesson learned the hard way earlier in the conflict. The supply routes coming from Poland and other NATO nations into Ukraine are going to be targeted more as the offensive in Donbas is now getting underway.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed that a new phase of the war has begun. During an interview with India Today, the diplomat said, “This operation in the east of Ukraine is aimed as it was announced from the very beginning to fully liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.” When he was questioned about the growing rhetoric over nuclear weapons, Lavrov blamed the Ukrainian government, and specifically Volodymyr Zelenskiy for fueling false allegations.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is modifying its forecast for global economic growth over the next 24 months as the ripple effects of the conflict in Ukraine continue to expand. When the war started in February, 2022, economies around the world hadn’t yet fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now these recoveries will be hampered by the war, jeopardizing growth in nations mainly across Europe and Asia. Naturally, Russia and Ukraine are feeling the most direct and immediate effects of the war.
In the past 24 hours, the city of Kharkov has been hit with over fifty Russian artillery and multiple-launch rocket fire strikes. The intensity of these attacks has increased dramatically as large convoys of Russian troops, equipment and vehicles continue their transit towards the Donbas region. The purpose of the artillery and rocket attacks is militarily sound; keep the Ukrainian forces in and around Kharkov from interfering with the movement of Russian forces into the east. Unfortunately, while these strikes are logical in the military sense, they are causing considerable amounts of collateral damage.
According to a report from the Svenska Dagbladet, a daily Swedish newspaper, Sweden intends to submit its application for NATO membership in late June according to sources. Part of the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a shift in security priorities by Stockholm and Helsinki. If either, or both, countries decide to join NATO it will bring about a dramatic change in the security and foreign policy pictures for Northeastern Europe.
The Russian Defense Ministry claims the last units of Ukrainian Marines still fighting in Mariupol have surrendered. There has yet been no confirmation that this news is accurate. If it turns out to be true though, Mariupol will become the first major Ukrainian city to fall since the start of Russia’s invasion in late February.
The national leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are on their way to Kiev to tour the city and meet with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy later today. Estonian President Alar Karis said in a Twitter post that the purpose of the visit is to show “strong support” to the people of Ukraine and meet with their Ukrainian counterpart.