Just a few days ago, it looked as if Russia had attacked NATO territory. At least that’s what Zelenskyy said, as did other Ukrainian politicians. Current findings refute this thesis. Why did Zelenskyj cause irritation for so long?
Early Tuesday evening it looked as if World War III was imminent. At least that’s what you might have thought when looking at the TV or the Internet.
That evening it became known that a rocket had landed in Poland. Two farmers, both in their 60s, died in the incident. The missile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed, came from Russia.
“Anywhere the Russian Federation can penetrate, kill it. Today it invaded Poland,” he tweeted in Polish. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba concurred, as did other politicians in the country.
On Tuesday evening, the situation was unclear and such comments were at least partially understandable. During the night, however, NATO security experts examined the impact site in Poland.
They evaluated radar signals and looked at satellite images. And came to the preliminary conclusion that the missile was a shell from the S300 anti-aircraft system of the Ukrainian army.
So did Selenskyj row back and admit that he was wrong? No, on the contrary: Even on Wednesday, after the NATO results were announced, the Ukrainian President stuck to his statement.
He described the missile strike in Poland as a “message from Russia to the G20 summit,” citing information from the Ukrainian military.
At the same time, US President Joe Biden and Polish Prime Minister Andrzej Duda had long since assumed that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile had missed its target and accidentally crashed into Polish territory.
So why did Zelenskyj continue to cause irritation? Why did he stick to a claim that many of his Western allies considered disproven?
“In recent years, Ukraine has had to experience again and again that Russia not only denies actions such as the downing of the MH17, but also abuses them for its own purposes against Ukraine,” said Eastern Europe historian Anna Veronika Wendland in an interview with “ZDF “.
According to Wendland, Russia’s attacks on critical infrastructure in Ukraine also indicate that Kyiv has stuck to its missile claim for so long.
“One of the targets of the Russian attacks was probably a substation not far from the border with Poland, over which runs one of the lines that connect the Ukrainian power grid with that in Western Europe,” she said.
So it’s quite possible that Zelenskyy and his comrades-in-arms really assumed that one of the Russian missiles accidentally landed in Poland. Which would have had fatal consequences.
Eventually it would have come to the NATO alliance and the much feared Third World War. Even Ukrainian experts find that Zelenskyy was too alarmist.
“He probably should have phrased it differently, but Zelenskyy is an emotional person,” Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko told Der Spiegel.
Overall, however, he defends the Ukrainian president. At first it actually seemed to Kyiv that a Russian missile had landed on Polish territory, says the political scientist.
It is clear that Poland, but also other western allies, unlike Zelenskyy, tried to keep things calm. The Polish government briefly considered whether NATO Article 4 consultations would be appropriate, but quickly decided against it.
An approach that Fessenko criticizes. “From the Ukrainian point of view, the reaction to the incident was far too weak,” he told Der Spiegel.
In his opinion, a declaration of war on Russia would have been too much, but an urgent warning was necessary. “If there is no strong reaction, Putin interprets this as weakness and the risk of further incidents increases.”
In Russia itself, Zelenskyy’s behavior was a godsend. Moscow promptly denied that the rocket, which killed two people in Poland, came from its own inventory.
The tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote on Friday that the world has now seen “how Zelenskyy lies and tries to drag the planet into a third world war”.
Newspapers such as Moskovsky Komsomolets and Rossisskaya Gazeta, which are also considered pro-Kremlin media, argued in a similar way. But critical voices can also be heard in this country.
“It is obvious that Kyiv wants to draw Allianz into this war as a direct party,” says a commentary published by the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ).
And author Thomas Dudek wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Own goals are always unnecessary. But Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian government officials’ continued insistence that the missile that fell in Poland was fired by Russia is just a totally stupid own goal. And that in relation to our own partners.”
Because of course it was Russia’s President Vladimir Putin who started the war of aggression against Ukraine. For months, the country has been fighting a fight it didn’t choose.
But shouldn’t Kyiv be more cautious about assigning blame for this very reason – especially when there is a lack of investigative results? In any case, such behavior does not promote credibility with its own allies.
Wars are always information wars, too, and many details cannot be independently verified.
Ukrainian investigators have now arrived in Poland. They are allowed to visit the site of the rocket impact, but according to Poland’s President Duda, active participation in the investigation requires “specific contractual bases within the meaning of international law and international agreements”.
Meanwhile, there is uncertainty in Poland, as a reporter from the “Berliner Zeitung” reports. In a long article he reports on the rocket accident and how the local people are dealing with the incident. The text is entitled: “Friendship crumbles for the first time: the Poles are disappointed in Selenskyj and want a confession”.
At the moment, however, it doesn’t look like it will come to that. Zelenskyy qualified his claim that it was a Russian missile on Thursday.
However, the Ukrainian President did not really retract his statement. He did not know with 100% certainty what happened, he said at an official event.