The Polish government called an emergency security meeting Tuesday night after two people were reportedly killed by a missile attack in Polish countryside near Ukraine.
According to Polish media, the two died near Przewodów, a village on the border with Ukraine. Photos posted to social media showed a damaged farm vehicle lying on its side next to a large crater. Local media said the victims were farm workers.
The government declined to comment on the cause of the incident, saying only that the emergency safety meeting was called to respond to an “emergency situation”.
A Polish intelligence official told the Financial Times that investigators were looking into whether the missile could have been a Russian one. If confirmed, it would be the first time a NATO country has been hit by a missile since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. NATO members can invoke Article 5 of the transatlantic treaty on mutual defense.
Russia’s defense ministry said the claims were a “deliberate provocation designed to escalate the situation.”
“There were no attacks on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border with Russian weapons,” the ministry said. It said footage of shrapnel found at the scene of the blast “had nothing to do with Russian weapons.”
Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US is “aware of press reports alleging that two Russian missiles have struck a location inside Poland near the border with Ukraine” and is taking them “seriously.” But Ryder said at this point the US had no information to “confirm those reports.”
Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the US was “working with the Polish government to gather more information”. She added: “We cannot confirm the reports or details at this time. We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be.”
The reports come as Russia fired a barrage of missiles at Ukrainian cities, damaging both energy infrastructure and civilian buildings.
“Russian missiles hit Poland,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Tuesday night, adding that Moscow fired 90 missiles at Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for a “collective response” to Russia’s missile strikes, including a NATO summit with Ukrainian participation to work out further joint measures, including the deployment of warplanes.
“Today, protecting the Ukrainian skies means protecting NATO,” Kuleba said.
Oleksiy Reznikov, the country’s defense minister, said that “after defeating Russia on the battlefield, attempts are made to create a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”
“As winter approaches, the enemy is attacking energy infrastructure throughout Ukraine. Their goal is to unleash a new wave of millions of refugees,” Reznikov said in a spate of posts on Twitter.
He also called on the West to provide more air defense systems to protect the country against weeks of Russian airstrikes.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said: “If Poland confirms that the missiles will also hit its territory, this will be another escalation on the part of Russia. We stand firmly behind our ally in the EU and NATO.”
“Russian missiles hitting NATO member’s territory are a very dangerous escalation of the Kremlin,” said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs tweeted. “Latvia expresses its full solidarity with our ally Poland and will support any measures considered appropriate by Poland. Russia bears full responsibility for all consequences.”
“We are reviewing these reports and are coordinating closely with our ally Poland,” a NATO official said.
Two NATO officials told the FT the situation had raised concern within the alliance but not panic. Warsaw would likely first trigger Article 4 of the treaty, which concerns discussions of a potential threat to an Ally member, before Article 5.
Artis Pabriks, Latvia’s Defense Minister, tweeted that Article 4 was “in place”.
In another sign of the conflict spreading, Moldova on Tuesday reported that it was without power after rocket attacks in Ukraine, as a power line between the two countries was automatically severed.
Additional reporting by James Politi in Washington and Henry Foy in Bali
https://www.ft.com/content/6606c639-2632-443b-9359-52d8a9964068 Poland calls emergency meeting after two people were killed near Ukraine border