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Polish Operational Command: Shooting down Russian missile over Poland posed risk to civilians

by Dominic Culverwell and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 24, 2024 11:28 PM 2 min read
MIM-104 Patriot short-range anti-aircraft missile systems for defense against aircraft, cruise missiles, and medium-range tactical ballistic missiles at Rzeszow Airport, Poland. July 24, 2022. (Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Polish Armed Forces did not shoot down the Russian missile that flew into Poland’s airspace as it could have posed a risk to local civilians, Polish media RMF 24 reported on March 24.

The missile entered Polish airspace above the Lublin region for 39 seconds before flying back into Western Ukraine during Russia’s latest mass aerial attack. The Polish Operational Command of the Armed Forces knew that the missile would circle back to Ukraine and decided not to down it, the command said.

"The decision resulted from information from our radar systems. The assessment of the missile's trajectory, speed and altitude indicated that it would leave our airspace," the Operational Command spokesperson Lt. Col. Jacek Goryszewski said.

According to him, Russia deliberately maneuvered the missile in a way that would unexpectedly target Ukraine from the west. Ukrainian air defense is typically prepared for missiles coming from the north or east.

Goryszewski noted that if Poland had downed the missile the falling debris would have posed a threat to local citizens.

However, if it had flown deeper into Polish territory then a decision could have been made to down the missile by pairs of F-16 aircraft. The pilots would have to take into consideration the location of falling debris to avoid hitting civilian areas such as schools or hospitals, Goryszewski stressed.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said it would demand explanations from Moscow after the incident.

Polish Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Pawel Wronski called on Russia to stop its “terrorist air attacks on the people and territory of Ukraine, to end the war and address the country's internal problems.”

Russia launched another mass missile attack on March 24, targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russian forces fired 29 cruise missiles and 28 Shahed drones targeting eight regions in the west, center, north, and south of Ukraine, the Air Force said.

This is not the first time Russian missiles have entered Poland, a NATO member. On Dec. 29, a missile entered the country's airspace, putting Polish defenses on high alert.

In another incident on Nov. 15, 2022, a missile flew onto Polish territory during a Russian mass strike, killing two civilians. Polish investigators later concluded that it was a stray Ukrainian surface-to-air missile launched to intercept a Russian attack.

Lviv firefighters successfully extinguish fire after Russian attack on infrastructure site
According to Governor Maksym Kozytskyi, 61 firefighters worked from early morning until after 5 p.m. local time to put out the fire.

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