WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish leaders say it would be better to hand over to Ukraine an air defense system that Germany offered to Poland to help protect it against Russian attacks.
Germany said earlier this week it offered Warsaw Eurofighter jets and Patriot defense systems to help defend Poland’s airspace after two men were killed when an apparently stray Ukrainian defense projectile fell in Poland near the Ukrainian border. .
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak initially said he welcomed Germany’s offer with “satisfaction”.
But after Russia’s heavy shelling of Ukraine on Wednesday, Polish leaders said it would be better if defense systems were located in western Ukraine.
The head of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, called Germany’s offer “interesting” but said he believed “it would be better for Poland’s security if Germany handed over the equipment to the Ukrainians, trained the Ukrainian teams, with the warning that the batteries would be located in western Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s ambassador in Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, thanked Blaszczak and said on Twitter that Ukraine needs as many air defense weapons as it can get.
But Poland’s apparent decision not to accept the German Patriot system drew some criticism from the opposition in Poland.
Some critics pointed out that Poland’s populist government was not only refusing military protection, but also critical funding from the European Union, money that has been withheld because of Poland’s refusal to follow EU guidelines to safeguard the independence of judges. . Poland needs the money as it seeks to absorb large numbers of refugees at a time of almost 18% inflation.
Marcin Kierwinski of the opposition Civic Platform party said Kaczynski “has gone crazy” for “refusing” Patriot missiles and EU funding “during war and crisis.”
Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party has been pursuing hostile policies towards neighboring Germany, accusing Berlin of blocking Poland’s interests in the EU. Warsaw has also been demanding $1.3 billion in reparations from Germany for World War II losses.
Two Poles were killed on November 15 when a missile struck a grain warehouse in the town of Przewodow, just 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Ukrainian border, which came under heavy Russian missile fire that day.
Western officials say it appeared a Ukrainian air defense missile went astray and landed in Poland. While acknowledging 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 began the attack.