Amid increasing tensions in Eastern Europe, US officials have reportedly called on their allies to show restraint when commenting on this week’s deadly missile blast in Poland. That’s according to news outlet Politico, which added that the same message had been forwarded to the Ukrainian government.
Three Western officials interviewed by the outlet said that over the last couple of days the Americans have asked their European colleagues – and the office of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky – to be careful when speaking about what caused the blast.
They also reportedly made a series of urgent phone calls in which they requested that their NATO allies not make any definitive statements until an investigation is carried out.
The outreach efforts come as Western and Ukrainian officials have been at loggerheads about who was responsible for the explosion in the Polish village of Przewodow close to the Ukrainian border that killed two people. While Western officials have said that the blast was probably caused by a Ukrainian missile, Kiev insists that it was Russian in origin.
According to Politico, these statements “illustrate one of the first major divergences in opinion between Washington and Kiev” since the start of Russia’s military campaign in the neighboring state in late February. US officials are trying to downplay this rift, but new fissures between Washington and Kiev may emerge as the conflict drags on, the report says.
According to Heather Conley, a former State Department official, the “confusion” surrounding the Poland missile incident was a “really important test run” for the US, NATO, and Ukraine. “I think we all learned a pretty valuable lesson in [that] you cannot say something right off the bat until you understand what it is … because the stakes are so high right now,” she told Politico.
Following the Tuesday blast, Zelensky pinned the blame on Russia, calling the incident “a very serious escalation” and describing it as an attack on NATO and demanding a response. Later, however, he toned down his claims, admitting that “we do not know 100%” what caused the blast.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied any involvement in the incident, saying its military experts had analyzed the photos from the scene and identified the debris as parts of an S-300 air defense system missile used by Ukraine.
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