'Russia Bears Ultimate Responsibility' for Poland Incident, US Secretary of Defense Says

The US Secretary of Defense told a press conference at the Pentagon on Wednesday, November 16, that “the world knows that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for this incident”, referring to a missile explosion in Poland that killed two people.

Lloyd J Austin III told reporters: "We’re still gathering information, but we have seen nothing that contradicts President Duda’s preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that, unfortunately, landed in Poland.

“Whatever the final conclusions may be, the world knows that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for this incident,” Austin said.

Two people were killed when a missile fell on a farm in Przewodow, near the Poland-Ukraine border, at 3:40 pm local time on Tuesday. Credit: US Department of Defense via Storyful

Video transcript

LLOYD AUSTIN: Thanks, Patrick. Good afternoon, everyone. We've just completed our seventh meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, and it's been another highly successful session. Now, we were meeting today as Russia continues to target Ukraine's civilians and bombard its energy grid, but Russia's deliberate cruelty only deepens our resolve. And we'll continue to support Ukraine's bedrock right to defend itself and defend the rules-based international order.

Yesterday, we saw reports of a deadly explosion in Poland, near its border with Ukraine. I spoke last night to my Polish counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Blaszczak, and I conveyed my deep condolences to the Polish people and to the loved ones of those who were killed. I also underscored America's ironclad commitment to defend Poland.

We have full confidence in the Polish government's investigation of this explosion. And they've been conducting that investigation in a professional and deliberate manner, and so we won't get ahead of their work. We're going to stay in close touch with our Polish counterparts as well as with our NATO allies and other valued partners.

We're still gathering information, but we have seen nothing that contradicts President Duda's preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland. And whatever the final conclusions may be, the world knows that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for this incident. Russia launched another barrage of missiles against Ukraine, specifically intended to target Ukraine's civilian infrastructure. This tragic and troubling incident is yet another reminder of the recklessness of Russia's war of choice.

And Ukraine has a bedrock right to defend itself, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they defend their country. And we were joined again today at the contact group meeting by my good friend Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's Minister of Defense, and by Deputy Chief of Defense, Lieutenant General Moisiuk. I spoke with General Reznikov by phone before this morning's contact group meeting about yesterday's explosion in Poland, and we'll remain in close consultation as we move forward.

Ukraine's commanders have shown tremendous leadership and tenacity, and they updated the contact group this morning on the current battlefield dynamics and on Ukraine's most urgent self-defense needs. Ukraine's troops continue to consolidate their gains on the battlefield as they head into the winter. And the contact group continues to push hard to bolster Ukraine's air defenses in the face of Russia's ongoing barrages.