WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish leaders say an air defense system offered to Poland by Germany would be best given to Ukraine to help defend against Russian attacks.
Germany said earlier this week it had offered Warsaw Eurofighter jets and Patriot defense systems to help defend Poland’s airspace after two men were killed when an apparently errant Ukrainian defense missile fell on Poland near the border with Ukraine.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak first said he had received Germany’s offer with “satisfaction”.
But after Russia’s heavy barrage on Ukraine on Wednesday, Polish leaders said it would be better to place the defense systems in western Ukraine.
The head of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, called Germany’s offer “interesting,” but said he believed “it would be best for Poland’s security if Germany hands over equipment to Ukrainians, trains Ukrainian teams, noting that the batteries will be located in western Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, thanked Blaszczak, saying on Twitter that Ukraine needs as many air defense weapons as possible.
But Poland’s apparent decision not to accept the German Patriot system has met with some criticism from the opposition in Poland.
Some critics have pointed out that Poland’s populist government is refusing not only military protection but also critical funding from the European Union, money that has been withheld because of Poland’s refusal to follow EU guidelines on protecting the independence of judges. Poland needs the money as it seeks to absorb large numbers of refugees at a time of nearly 18% inflation.
Marcin Kierwinski of the opposition Civic Platform party said Kaczynski had “gone mad” because he had “rejected” Patriot missiles and EU funding “during war and crisis”.
Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party pursues a policy hostile to its neighbor Germany, accusing Berlin of blocking Poland’s interests in the EU. Warsaw also demanded $1.3 trillion in reparations from Germany for World War II losses.
Two Poles were killed on November 15 when a missile hit a grain warehouse in the village of Przewodow, just 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the border with Ukraine, which came under heavy Russian rocket fire that day.
Western officials say a Ukrainian air defense missile appeared to have gone astray and landed in Poland. While admitting that Russia did not fire the missile, NATO, the United States and Poland say they believe the ultimate blame lies with Russia, which invaded Ukraine and launched the attack.