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Biden flies out of Bali after condemning ‘MERCILESS’ Russian strikes


Published: 06:48 GMT, 16 November 2022 | Updated: 07:12 GMT, 16 November 2022

President Joe Biden left Bali on Wednesday at the end of a six-day foreign policy blitz that took him to three countries and all the way around the world.

His final day at the G20 summit on the Indonesian island was upended by an explosion in Poland, five miles from the border with Ukraine, that triggered worries of a N.A.T.O. retaliatory strike if Russia were to blame.

And back home Donald Trump hogged the headlines by announcing his bid to win back the White House in 2024.

Biden shrugged off Trump’s run. When asked if he wanted to comment, he responded: ‘Not really.’

He left Bali after taking part in a photo-friendly event meant to promote environmental stewardship. It was intended to be the lingering image of a conference where sometimes fractured nations could work out their differences.

But even here, the explosion in Poland obtruded into what the G20 organizers had planned.

Biden’s top-level diplomacy forced him to delay his arrival for the planting with Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

That came after Biden gave the Indonesian his regrets for missing a gala dinner and cultural performance the night before.

A White House official emailed ‘He just had spent a full day in meetings and needed to attend to a few things tonight (nothing urgent!).’

When Biden did make it to the mangrove event, he joined leaders decked out in matching white shirts, with most of them wearing white baseball caps at the Hutan Mangrove Forrest.

Not all G20 participants were there. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had already left. Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad in Salman, another controversial presence in Bali, also wasn’t there.

President Joe Biden boarded Air Force One for the long flight back to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, after a six-day, three-summit trip around the world, that ended with the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia

On his final day, Biden joined other world leaders to plant trees at a mangrove forest on the tropical island of Bali

Biden also met the new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the final day of his overseas trip

Biden smiled and posed with the group, though he opted for a blue shirt and his trademark aviator shades. All held up shovels for the cameras.

The group lined up against mangrove saplings for the planting. The trees are critical to habitat for a range of creatures and have other environmental benefits – with Indonesia touting its own carbon capturing potential as a way to do its part amid pressing climate change.

‘Push to fill the hole with soil,’ an announcer told the group.

‘You may immerse yourselves in the beauty of nature,’ she instructed.

Biden had already had a busy day by then.

Officials said Biden was woken early to be told of the explosion in Poland. 

He telephoned the Polish president to offer U.S. support for its investigation, before calling a morning emergency meeting with other N.A.T.O. leaders in Bali to discuss a joint response.

Then he addressed the media to say initial indications were that Russia was not responsible.

‘There is preliminary information that contests that,’ he told reporters outside his hotel after crisis talks with allies. 

‘I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate but it is unlikely in the … trajectory that it was fired from Russia, but we’ll see.’

He condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as ‘totally unconscionable,’ particularly at a time when world leaders had come together in Bali to further isolate Moscow.

American officials later said initial assessments suggested the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian projectile.

President Joe Biden called an emergency meeting of G7 and N.A.T.O. leaders on the Indonesian island of Bali on Wednesday morning as Poland investigates an explosion that killed two people five miles from its border with Ukraine

President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday morning from his hotel in Bali, Indonesia. He is joined by his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan while Secretary of State Antony Blinken takes notes from the sofa, in this handout picture supplied by the White House after an explosion in Poland

Biden condemned the latest Russian missile strikes on Wednesday as ‘totally unconscionable’ but urged the world to wait for an investigation into an explosion in Poland that killed two people five miles inside the border from Ukraine

But with Russia launching what Ukraine said were the heaviest missile strikes of the nine-month war, immediate suspicion fell on Moscow. 

That could trigger N.A.T.O.’s principle of collective defense known as Article 5, in which an attack on one of the Western alliance’s members is deemed an attack on all – and raising the prospect of a military response. 

Biden was woken by staff at his luxury hotel to be informed of the explosion. 

He postponed attendance at a tree planting ceremony at the G20 summit in Bali on Wednesday morning. He instead met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Emmanuel Macron of the French Republic and others at the Grand Hyatt hotel. 

He said there was total unanimity among leaders around the table.

Today, the Leaders of Canada, the European Commission, the European Council, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States met on the margins of the G20 Summit in Bali and released the following statement: 

We condemn the barbaric missile attacks that Russia perpetrated on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure on Tuesday. We discussed the explosion that took place in the eastern part of Poland near the border with Ukraine. 

We offer our full support for and assistance with Poland’s ongoing investigation. 

We agree to remain in close touch to determine appropriate next steps as the investigation proceeds. 

We reaffirm our steadfast support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in the face of ongoing Russian aggression, as well as our continued readiness to hold Russia accountable for its brazen attacks on Ukrainian communities, even as the G20 meets to deal with the wider impacts of the war. 

We all express our condolences to the families of the victims in Poland and Ukraine.

Biden offered offered full U.S support and assistance with Poland’s investigation in the phone call with Duda (right)

Przewodow is located just five miles from the border with Ukraine

Biden called an emergency meeting of his G7 leaders and N.A.T.O. allies on Wednesday morning at his hotel in Bali, Indonesia.

They were expected to discuss a coordinated response to reports that a Russian missile fell inside Polish territory.

Biden is flanked by Canada’s Justin Trudeau (left) and the U.K.’s Rish Sunak at their Wednesday morning meeting

In attendance were: 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Federal Republic of Germany

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada

President Emmanuel Macron of the French Republic

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the Italian Republic

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission

President Charles Michel of the European Council

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Kingdom of Spain

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands

‘We also discussed the latest series of Russian missile attacks, which are continuing the brutality and inhumanity that they’ve demonstrated throughout this war against Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructures,’ he said.

‘They’ve been totally unconscionable what they’re doing.’

In a one-on-one meeting with Sunak, he said the U.S. and U.K. were unified in their stance on Ukraine.

‘We’re going to continue to support Ukraine as long as Russia continues their aggression,’ said Biden.

He added that the attacks were barbaric and ‘merciless.’

‘This morning we’ve already met with our fellow N.A.T.O. and G7 leaders to address Russia’s latest missile strikes against Kyiv and Western Ukraine – it’s merciless,’ he said.

Earlier, he telephoned his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda to offer the full backing of the Unites States.

Officials said Biden expressed condolences for the loss of life and laid out Washington’s ‘ironclad’ commitment to N.A.T.O. – which includes a mutual defense pact.

‘President Duda described Poland’s ongoing assessment of the explosion that took place in the eastern part of the country near the border with Ukraine,’ said the White House.

‘President Biden offered full U.S support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation.’

The two leaders will stay in touch.

Biden is due to fly out of Bali on Wednesday after a second day of meetings with other G20 leaders.  

A day earlier Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky dialed in to set out his 10-point plan to ending the war. 

Biden also called N.A.T.O. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of an expected meeting of members’ ambassadors later in the day. 

Meanwhile, moments after Biden met with key allies, his predecessor Donald Trump trashed Biden’s diplomacy during a speech from Mar-a-Lago announcing another run for president.

‘The United States has been embarrassed, humiliated and weakened for all to see,’ Trump said, blasting Biden for the hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan.

‘Even just today a missile was sent in probably by Russia to Poland, 15 miles into Poland,’ Trump said, bringing up the explosion and contradicting how Biden phrased the state of play.

‘Enemies are speaking us with scorn and laughter and derision,’ said Trump.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has dominated the gathering of leaders from the world’s 20 richest economy. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time appeared to express frustration with Moscow, while other leaders lined up to isolate Russia. 

A spokeswoman for Biden’s National Security Council said American officials could not confirm that Russia was responsible for the explosion. But earlier Poland said it believed Russia, and its war in Ukraine was to blame. 

‘A Russian-made missile fell, killing two citizens of the Republic of Poland,’ Polish foreign ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina said, adding that the Russian ambassador to Poland had been summoned to give ‘immediate detailed explanations’. 

Explosions rang out in Przewodów, a rural village located five miles from the Ukrainian border in south western Poland, at around 3:40pm local time. 

Twin explosions rang out Tuesday afternoon in Przewodów, a rural village located five miles from the Ukrainian border in south western Poland. The aftermath of the explosions, which killed two, is pictured

Smoke rises in the distance, amid reports of two explosions, seen from Nowosiolki, Poland, near the border with Ukraine November 15, 2022

A chunk of metal is pictured lying in the dirt after Russian missiles landed on Polish soil and killed two. Some commentators have claimed the debris looks similar to components of the S-300 air defense system employed in Ukraine, but Poland’s foreign ministry confirmed the missile was Russian

Smoke is seen at the site of a reported Russian missile strike on Polish soil

The blasts came as Moscow launched a wave of missile attacks across Ukraine in what Kyiv said was the heaviest strikes in nearly nine months of war.

Russia’s defense ministry for its part denied that its missiles had landed on Polish soil, describing the incident as ‘a deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation’.

It added in a statement: ‘No strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border were made by Russian means of destruction.’

One European diplomat said the alliance would act cautiously and needed time to verify how exactly the incident happened.

Poland is a member of N.A.T.O. which maintains a ‘collective defense policy’, meaning that an attack on one nation in the security bloc is an attack on all. 

Article 5 of the Washington treaty – N.A.T.O.’s founding agreement – stipulates that if a N.AT.O. ally is the victim of an armed attack, ‘each and every other member of the alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the ally attacked’.

But Article 4 allows for a consultation of member states to determine appropriate collective responses to incidents, so it is unlikely that N.A.T.O. will launch a military operation unless there is proof of Russian intentions to deliberately target Polish or N.A.T.O. military bases, infrastructure or civilian centers. 

Pentagon spokesman Big. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a statement that the U.S. is still looking into the reported missile strikes in Poland but added: ‘we’ve been crystal clear that we will defend every inch of NATO territory.’ 

There was speculation that the explosion could have been caused by a Russian missile being shot down over Ukrainian skies before landing in Poland, with some defense researchers claiming parts of the debris bore a resemblance to components of the S-300 air defense system employed in Ukraine, though no conclusive proof was found. 

Meanwhile, editor-in-chief of RT Margarita Simonyan posted an incredulous message on social media, claiming that ‘the probability that a modern Russian missile will go off course so much is about the same as meeting a living dinosaur on the street…. there is a high probability that this is either a Ukrainian mistake or a Polish provocation. Or British.’

Ukraine’s foreign minister called for NATO members to convene an ‘immediate’ summit to bring tough measures against Moscow following the reports Russian missiles had landed in Poland.

‘A collective response to Russian actions must be tough and principled. Among immediate actions: a NATO summit with Ukraine’s participation to craft further joint actions, which will force Russia to change its course on escalation, providing Ukraine with modern aircraft,’ Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement on Twitter.

At least three Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Tuesday, with mayor Vitali Klitschko saying they all struck residential buildings

Polish president Andrzej Duda is pictured. Polish officials were called into an emergency meeting following the news that a pair of Russian missiles had hit a village near the border with Ukraine, killing two

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of Pobeda (Victory) organising committee via teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on November 15, 2022

Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said that Warsaw is looking into whether it must request consultations with member states of N.A.T.O. in the wake of the suspected Russian missile strikes. 

Article 4 of the Washington Treaty, which has been recognized since N.A.T.O. was founded in 1949, allows a member state to call on its fellow members to ‘consult together’ when its ‘territorial integrity, political independence or security’ is threatened.

If it can be determined that Russian missiles entered into Poland somehow by mistake or that they were shot down over Ukrainian skies and landed in Poland, then N.A.T.O. is highly unlikely to launch a military response to yesterday’s strike on Poland.

N.A.T.O. members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland triggered Article 4 in February when Russia first invaded Ukraine, and NATO stationed more troops along the border in those territories. 

But the situation could become significantly more complicated if member states conclude that Moscow intended to hit a location where Western military supplies are stored.

N.A.T.O.’s principle of collective defence, which is fundamental to the alliance, commits all members to take ‘such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force’, in the event of an ‘armed attack’ on any member.

The principle is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, and dictates that a collective armed response should be implemented if a member state suffers an attack.  

N.A.T.O. has only invoked Article 5 one time in its history, following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. 

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by phone Tuesday with Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, offering his condolences following reports of the alleged Russian missile strike on Polish soil.

‘Expressed condolences over the death of Polish citizens from Russian missile terror. We exchanged available information and are clarifying all the facts. Ukraine, Poland, all of Europe and the world must be fully protected from terrorist Russia,’ Zelensky said in a tweet.

N.A.T.O. chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter: ‘Spoke with President Duda about the explosion in Poland. I offered my condolences for the loss of life. NATO is monitoring the situation and Allies are closely consulting. Important that all facts are established.’

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meanwhile declared: ‘Alarmed by reports of an explosion in Poland, following a massive Russian missile strike on Ukrainian cities. I extend my condolences and my strongest message of support and solidarity with Poland and our Ukrainian friends,’ adding she was in close contact with Polish security officials. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a tweet said Britain will support allies as they establish what happened.

‘We are also coordinating with our international partners, including NATO,’ he said.

Russia unleashed one of its largest missile barrages to date at Ukraine today, leaving the country’s energy network ‘critical’ with rolling blackouts. 

More than 100 rockets were fired at cities across the country, hitting civilian buildings and power stations, the Ukrainian air force said.

The bombardment left half of Kyiv, where at least one civilian died, and the whole city of Zhytomyr without power.

Strikes were also reported in the western city of Lviv – the closest large urban settlement to the Polish border – and caused partial blackouts. 

Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, Rivne, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, Chernihiv, Khmelnytskyi, and Ivano-Frankivsk were also targeted.

The bombardment came as German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that documents leaked from the German military said one of the country’s top generals, Eberhard Zorn, ordered the country’s army to put itself on a war footing in the face of ‘existential’ threats.

The 68-page policy paper was produced in September, according to Der Spiegel. In it, Zorn called for the complete overhaul of the German military and told commanders to prepare themselves for war.

‘Attacks on Germany can potentially occur without warning and with great, possibly even existential, damage,’ he wrote.

Firefighters work to put out a fire in a residential building hit by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv

Russian occupation authorities in Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine’s Kherson region said Tuesday they had left the city, following Moscow’s retreat from the regional capital, because they were under fire from Ukrainian forces.

‘Employees of the state administration of Nova Kakhovka, as well as state and municipal institutions have left the city and were relocated to safe locations in the region,’ the Moscow-installed authorities said on Telegram.

Nova Kakhovka is on the left bank of the Dnipro River, around 60 kilometres north-east of Kherson, from which Russian troops retreated from last week.

The Russian-backed officials said that after Moscow’s pull-out from Kherson, Nova Kakhovka came under ‘indiscriminate fire’ from the Ukrainian army and that ‘life in the city is unsafe.’

It also claimed that ‘thousands of residents’ had followed their recommendation to leave the city to ‘save themselves’, saying Kyiv’s forces will seek ‘revenge on collaborators.’

Attacks on Ukraine today came just hours after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky – speaking via videolink from Kyiv – told world leaders at the G20 Bali summit that he is ready to end the war provided Russia withdraws its troops from areas it currently occupies. 

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov – speaking later at the summit in Indonesia – accused the West of waging ‘hybrid war’ in Ukraine and Kyiv of ‘prolonging’ the conflict, without mentioning Russia’s own involvement in the fighting.

‘There is an attack on the capital. According to preliminary information, two residential buildings were hit in the Pechersk district,’ Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

‘Several missiles were shot down over Kyiv by air defence systems. Medics and rescuers are at the scene of the strikes.’

Moments later, he added: ‘Another hit in the Pechersk district. Multi-storey building.’

Andriy Yermak, head of Zelensky’s staff, said the attack was a response to the president addressing the G20 – ramping up pressure on Russia to stop its attacks.

‘Does anyone seriously think that the Kremlin really wants peace? It wants obedience. But at the end of the day, terrorists always lose,’ Yermak said.

Russian forces have in recent weeks been targeting energy infrastructure across Ukraine and has launched barrages of missiles and swarms of drones.

Around a third of Ukraine’s power-generating capacity has been taken out, causing rolling blackouts across the country just as winter hits.

Kyiv was last targeted by Russian forces nearly one month ago on October 17.

Russia faced mounting diplomatic pressure Tuesday to end its war in Ukraine, as G20 allies and critics alike rued the painful global impact of nearly nine months of conflict.

A draft communique obtained by AFP showed the world’s 20 leading economies coming together to condemn the war’s effects, but still divided on apportioning blame.

The summit has shown that even Russia’s allies have limited patience with a conflict that has inflated food and energy prices worldwide and raised the spectre of nuclear war.

Firefighters work at the scene of a missile attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, which was struck by Russian rockets hours after President Zelensky spoke at the G20

Firefighters work to put out a fire in a residential building hit by a Russian missile strike, amid attacks on Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the G20 just hours before the missiles hit, calling on Russia to end its invasion of his country

Risking diplomatic isolation, Russia was forced to agree that the war in Ukraine – which Moscow refuses to call a war – has ‘adversely impacted the global economy’.

It also agreed that ‘the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons’ is ‘inadmissible’, after months of its president Vladimir Putin making such threats.

The embattled Russian leader has skipped the summit, staying at home to reckon with a string of embarrassing battlefield defeats and a grinding campaign that threatens the future of his regime.

Rubbing salt in Russia’s wounds, Zelensky – fresh from a visit to liberated Kherson – delivered an impassioned video appeal to G20 leaders.

He said they could ‘save thousands of lives’ by pressing for a Russian withdrawal.

The United States and its allies used the summit to broaden the coalition against Russia’s invasion and scotch Moscow’s claims of a conflict of East versus West.

Ukraine has reclaimed more than 50 per cent of the territory it had lost since the beginning of the war to Russian troops, a new report has claimed.

Within a week of Vladimir Putin ordering his tanks to roll across the Ukrainian border on February 24, Russian armed convoys had paraded into north eastern Ukraine and had pulled up mere miles from the outskirts of Kyiv.

There they remained while Russian troops flooded into the south, rumbling through the Zaporizhzhia region and into Kherson where they seized the eponymous city on the Dnieper river.

Putin’s soldiers also launched a grinding offensive in the east, using WWI style tactics of heavy artillery bombardment and trench warfare to grind down Ukrainian positions and advance into the eastern Donbas region. 

But by April, the tide began to turn and Ukrainian forces pushed back the fraying Russian forces outside of Kyiv, forcing them to retreat into Belarus and Putin’s defence chiefs to ‘refocus’ their efforts on the Donbas. 

In the months that have followed, Ukraine’s armed forces engaged in a series of strategic counterattacks which have systematically pushed back Russian forces in the north- and south-east. 

According to an analysis of Institute for the Study of War data by the New York Times, Russia currently controls around 18 per cent of Ukraine, including Donetsk and Luhansk Provinces in the east as well as Crimea, which it illegally annexed in 2014. 

Ukrainian servicemen fire a mortar on a front line, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, pictured 

A Ukrainian servicemen at the frontline at the northern Kherson region on 7 November, pictured

Ukraine have reclaimed areas including Kherson and Kyiv from Russian forces. Pictured: A Ukrainian soldier is kissed by a resident in liberated Kherson on November 13 

Civilians, pictured, carrying Ukrainian flags celebrate at Independence Square after the withdrawal of the Russian army from Kherson to the eastern bank of Dnieper River, Ukraine on November 14, 

Firefighters work to put out a fire in a residential building hit by a Russian missile strike, amid attacks on Ukraine