Polish Minister of Defense has confirmed previous information about a cruise missile launched by a russian bomber landing in the middle of his country. Mariusz Błaszczak reported on the results of the investigation that started after local residents found remnants of a missile in a nearby forest in late April 2023.
From the very beginning, various reports created confusion about its origin. The first unofficial statement was that this missile was carried by a Polish MiG-29, and they don't know when it fell. Now Warsaw publicly admits the missile was fired by russian strategic aviation.
Minister Błaszczak said the cruise missile landed on December 16, 2022. As a reminder, on that day, russians launched another series of missile strikes against Ukraine, firing 76 missiles in total, from the air and the sea. The Kh-101 and Kh-555 air missiles were sent flying from Saratov Oblast, roughly 400 km east of the nearest Ukraine-controlled position. Moreover, Warsaw received a warning from the Ukrainian side that an aerial object was approaching the Polish border.
"Allied cooperation procedures have been properly started. The combat readiness of our units on duty has been increased. The aircraft in charge – Polish and American – took off into the air. The object was detected by Polish ground radars," Mariusz Błaszczak stated, adding:
"The audit findings clearly indicate that the activities of the Air Operations Centre [Centrum Operacji Powietrznych] were correct. The Air Operations Center informed in the report of the superior, i.e. the Operational Commander [Dowódca Operacyjny], about an unidentified object that appeared in the Polish airspace"
But the Operational Commander "neglected his instructional duties" and informed neither Minister Błaszczak nor other security and defense services – that was the conclusion of the inspection.
In summary, though the responsible person has been established – the chair of Operational Commander is currently seated by Tomasz Piotrowski, the main question remains: why the aerial object wasn't shot down? Furthermore, why no one organized a search for the remnants of it? The defense minister said local police was trying to find it only until December 19, afterward the activities were ceased, and Błaszczak says he wasn't informed about the incident.
All of this is all the more strange if we take into account Mariusz Błaszczak didn't name the type of the russian missile. Earlier reports suggested it was an unarmed Kh-55 with a nuclear warhead simulator. But there is too little of a chance Polish air defense could be sure that it wasn't as dangerous a missile with a real explosive charge while it was still midflight. And it fell 15 km from Bydgoszcz, the eighth most populated city of Poland. Given the vector of the flight, it well could have flown near the country's capital.
What will the conclusion from all this situation be, apparently, we'll see pretty soon. The problem is, the incident happened half a year ago, so the rapid reaction from NATO should not be expected at this point.
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