Poland’s president and NATO’s secretary general said an explosion in Polish territory was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile that was intended to fend of Russian attacks.CreditCredit…Pawel Supernak/EPA, via Shutterstock

Poland’s president said on Wednesday that a Ukrainian air defense missile had most likely caused a deadly explosion in his country a day earlier, calling it an “unfortunate accident” and easing fears that his country and its NATO allies could be drawn into a direct conflict with Russia.

President Andrzej Duda said early indications suggested that Ukrainian efforts to counter a barrage of roughly 100 Russian missiles had been the cause of the blast on Tuesday that killed two farm workers — not a direct attack on his country.

“We have no evidence at the moment that it was a rocket launched by Russian forces,” Mr. Duda told reporters. “However, there are many indications that it was a missile that was used by Ukraine’s antimissile defense.”

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said after meeting with the alliance’s envoys that a preliminary analysis also suggested that a Ukrainian missile was responsible, but that a fuller investigation was still underway. He stressed that there was no indication of a deliberate attack by Russia or of any Russian plans to attack a NATO ally — meaning that NATO’s commitment to collective defense was not at issue.

But even if the missile was Ukrainian, he said, the blame belonged to Russia.

“Let me be clear: This is not Ukraine’s fault,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”

The White House said it had “full confidence” in Poland’s investigation and had “seen nothing that contradicts President Duda’s preliminary assessment.”

“That said, whatever the final conclusions may be, it is clear that the party ultimately responsible for this tragic incident is Russia, which launched a barrage of missiles on Ukraine specifically intended to target civilian infrastructure,” the White House said in a statement. “Ukraine had — and has — every right to defend itself.”

Initial reports had suggested the explosion might have been caused by a Russian missile, which prompted intense discussions and even some panic over whether Russia had somehow attacked a NATO ally, possible grounds to invoke the alliance’s mutual defense clause, defined in Article 5 of NATO’s treaty. But the results of the investigation so far seemed to tamp down concerns that the explosion could escalate the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was skeptical of the preliminary conclusion, saying he had “no doubt that it was not our missile.” But he allowed for the possibility he was mistaken as he pushed for his country to have a role in the investigation.

“If it was the use of our air defense, then I want that evidence,” he told Ukrainian news outlets on Wednesday.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, reiterated Moscow’s rejection of responsibility for the blast and complained that some had been all too ready to blame Russia — noting that the U.S. response had been a welcome exception.

“One should never rush to pronounce judgments and statements that can escalate the situation, still more so at such crucial moments,” he said.

“In this case,” he added, “it makes sense to pay attention to the restrained and far more professional response of the American side and the American president.”

The explosion was a topic of discussion at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday. Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, reiterated the Kremlin’s denials of involvement. The Ukrainian ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said that Ukraine supports “a full and transparent investigation to establish all the facts of this tragic incident.”

Key details on what transpired have yet to be clarified. There are questions about the trajectory of the missile in question and whether it might have been aiming at or had hit a Russian missile. Investigators will also focus on what the debris from Poland shows.

Mr. Duda said that “preliminary examination of the scene indicates that there was no classic rocket explosion there, but that it was the result of the rocket’s fall, perhaps in conjunction with the explosion of the fuel that remained.”

He also emphasized that the events in Poland had come amid a “massive, unprecedented” Russian attack on Ukraine.

“Ukraine defended itself — which is obvious and understandable — also by firing missiles whose task was to knock down Russian missiles,” he said. “Therefore we were dealing with a very serious clash caused by the Russian side, as well as the entire conflict. Yesterday’s clash is certainly borne by the Russian side.”

Matthew Mpoke Bigg contributed reporting.

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