The United States and its allies have criticised Russia in the United Nations Security Council over its responsibility for a deadly missile strike in Poland, an event the UN’s political chief called “a frightening reminder of the absolute need to prevent any further escalation” of the nine-month-old war in Ukraine.
The meeting, which was previously scheduled, convened a day after a missile NATO identified as a stray fired by Ukraine’s air defences crashed inside Poland, a NATO member, killing two farm workers.
NATO and Poland said the missile was probably not a Russian strike, easing international fears the war could widen, although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continued to insist there was no doubt the missile was not Ukrainian.
The deaths in the village near Poland’s border with Ukraine took place on the same day Russia fired more than 90 missiles at cities across Ukraine, aiming at its energy grid and worsening power blackouts for millions. The government in Kyiv said it was the most intense barrage since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.
“While we don’t yet know all the facts, we do know one thing,” the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council.
“This tragedy would never have happened but for Russia’s needless invasion of Ukraine and its recent missile assaults against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.
“Ukraine has every right to defend itself against this barrage.”
The Polish and United Kingdom’s UN ambassadors echoed the statement that Russia’s invasion was ultimately to blame for what had happened in Poland.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia countered, accusing Ukraine and Poland of trying “to provoke a direct clash between Russia and NATO”, and pointed to statements by Ukraine’s president and Polish officials initially suggesting Russia was responsible.
“We have long ago stopped being surprised by your attempts in any circumstances, in spite of facts or common sense, to blame Russia for everything,” he said.
The 15-member council was briefed by UN Undersecretary-General for political affairs Rosemary DiCarlo who criticised the missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, describing this week’s attacks as Russia’s “most intense bombardments” since its February 24 invasion.
She reiterated that attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international law, noted that “heavy battles” are continuing in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions and told council members “there is no end in sight to the war”. She also warned that “as long as it continues, the risks of potentially catastrophic spillover remain all too real”.
While the meeting was dominated by what had happened in Poland, Security Council members also called for Russia to extend the Black Sea grain deal, which is set to roll over on Saturday unless there are objections.
Moscow suspended its participation in the agreement in late October but rejoined after four days, easing fears of further disruptions to exports from one of the world’s biggest grain suppliers at a time of surging food prices and shortages.