At the end of April, remains of an “unidentified military object” were found in a forest near the city of Bydgoszcz, known as the “Polish capital of NATO”.
Despite various assumptions put forward over the past few weeks, current assessments converge on the possibility that the discovery could be a Russian cruise missile launched in December of last year from Belarusian territory.
Did Russia plan a direct strike on the territory of a NATO member country? And how did the Polish air defense system fail to detect the missile?
However, the quest for answers to these questions has turned into a witch hunt, which may only exacerbate the challenges facing Poland.
The missile that did not reach Ukraine
As is often the case in such situations, it has given rise to a multitude of hypotheses and speculations.
Initially, it was believed to be a fallen drone. Some even suggested that the object found in the forest could be a projectile from the times of World War II or the period of Soviet military presence in Poland, fueled by the presence of Russian inscriptions.
Later, there were speculations that it could have been debris from Polish military equipment. This is because there are military aviation factories near the incident site, that repair, among other things, F-16 fighters, as well as an airport used by these factories and the army.
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“It didn’t necessarily have to be from the Russian Federation or the front lines. It’s worth noting that we have MiG-29s equipped with missiles,” commented former GROM commander, General Roman Polko, adding that it could have been some sort of training, possibly involving Ukrainian and Polish pilots.
However, the most serious hypothesis considered by investigators is that the object found near Bydgoszcz could have been a Kh-55 missile launched from a Russian aircraft flying over Belarus during the December mass shelling of Ukrainian territory.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki mentioned the possibility of such a connection at the beginning of the investigation, stating: “There are indications of a link between this discovery and the information our services obtained last year, which we discussed with our allies regarding the December incident.”
The investigation was undertaken by the District Prosecutor’s Office in Gdansk. A group of services, including the police, army, explosive ordnance disposal unit, and fire brigade, conducted necessary operations to secure the area in the forest.
Shortly thereafter, the Operational Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, General Tomasz Piotrowski, revealed some details.
He reported, among other things, that “intensive investigations and checks are underway, along with intensive dialogue between different institutions regarding the possible origin of this equipment.” He also mentioned that certain hypotheses have been developed and there are “leads that can be connected to the incident.”
And now, in recent days, new details have indeed started to emerge.
Looking for a scapegoat
“Today, I received the results of the investigation. It has been determined that on December 16th, information was received by the Air Operations Center, subordinate to the Operational Commander, from the Ukrainian side regarding the approach of an object to Polish airspace that could potentially be a missile. Cooperation has been established with the Ukrainian and American sides,” stated the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense of Poland, Mariusz Błaszczak, during a press conference on May 11th.
Later, this information was confirmed by the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda.
During his visit to the capital of Albania, Tirana, he stated that many indications point to “it possibly being the fall of a missile.”
However, the question arises: why was this information kept silent for so long?
Apparently, anticipating uncomfortable questions, the Ministry of Defense prepared suspicion that shocked more than the confirmation of the assumption about the Russian nature of the found object. It concerns accusations directly targeting the aforementioned Operational Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, General Tomasz Piotrowski.
“The procedures worked properly up to the level of the Operational Commander of the Armed Forces, General Tomasz Piotrowski, who failed to fulfill his duties. Personnel or disciplinary decisions will be made after consultation with the President,” announced the Minister of Defense, adding that the most significant shortcomings of the Operational Commander were identified in terms of reporting the incident and conducting search operations.
The following day, on May 12th, General Piotrowski issued a brief statement on this matter.
“I want to appeal to reason, for us to carefully consider our emotions in the coming days, for us to be wise in our actions, and not to feed a very ambitious and aggressive opponent, not allowing ourselves to be divided into groups. Because this opponent is just waiting for that,” Piotrowski said.
Many military personnel do not believe the version presented by Minister Błaszczak.
For instance, General Waldemar Skrzypczak does not believe that General Piotrowski failed to report this to his superiors, as the information was sent to the Chief of the General Staff, to whom he is subordinate. According to Skrzypczak, the situation indicates that the government is trying to find a scapegoat to blame for all the chaos.
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General Mieczysław Cieniuch agrees with him. In his opinion, the explanations given by Minister Błaszczak are unlikely.
In turn, Gazeta Wyborcza observer Paweł Wroński, analyzing President Andrzej Duda’s visit to the Ustka training ground, where he observed the Anakonda-23 exercises and made a statement, notes that it indicates that the state leader has no intention of dismissing the Operational Commander, General Tomasz Piotrowski.
According to Wroński’s assumption, Mariusz Błaszczak is targeting not only General Piotrowski but also the Chief of Staff, General Rajmund Andrzejczak, with whom the Minister of Defense has had strained relations for a long time.
However, according to Wroński, General Andrzejczak is an extremely competent military officer, highly regarded within NATO. In this context, the President’s visit to Ustka and the meeting there with Generals Piotrowski and Andrzejczak are significant gestures.
He also speculates that the fact that a Russian missile flew 400 km into Polish territory and fell 15 km before reaching the city where strategic NATO institutions are located (which is why Bydgoszcz is called the “Polish capital of NATO”), including important military bases and repair factories is the evidence that the Polish air defense is far from being in the best condition.
And if it turns out that Błaszczak was unaware of the missile flight, the deployment of Polish and allied F-16 aircraft and other related details, it suggests that he is unfit to be a minister, according to Wroński.
Meanwhile, on May 13th, the Polish Ministry of Defense announced that the previous day the army had detected the presence of an object in the country’s airspace that had entered from the direction of Belarus, with which radiolocation was lost near Rypin.
A few hours before that, another flying object violated Polish airspace from the same direction, which later headed towards Danish airspace.
It appears that the Kremlin continues to test the defenses of NATO member countries.
The prolonged absence of a reaction to the incident near Bydgoszcz only reaffirmed the Kremlin’s belief in the effectiveness of such tactics.
Originally posted by Stanislav Zhelikhovskyi on Ukrainska Pravda. Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website
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