NATO and its allies, including the United States, have said they are investigating “concerning” reports that Russian missiles were responsible for a deadly explosion in Poland near the border with Ukraine.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said Washington wanted to “confirm” Polish media reports that Russian missiles had landed in the eastern Polish village of Przewodow, killing two.
“I don’t want to think or speculate,” Ryder told reporters when asked about how the U.S. would support NATO allies in the event of an attack.
“In terms of our defense and Article 5, we’ve been making sure that we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” Ryder said, referring to the NATO defense agreement, which prohibits attacks against any NATO member. unity and attack both.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also said he spoke with Polish President Andrzej Duda and said the alliance is monitoring the situation and discussing with its allies.
“It is important that all principles are established,” Stoltenberg he wrote on Twitter.
He spoke to President Duda @prezydentpl of eruption in #Poland. I offered my condolences on the loss of life. #NATO is closely monitoring the situation and the Allies are in close consultation. It is important that all points are established.
– Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) November 15, 2022
If confirmed, the strike would be the first time a Russian missile has landed in a country other than Ukraine since Russia launched an attack on its neighbor on February 24. Tuesday’s reports fueled concern and calls to find out what happened.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, who is based in Kyiv, said it was possible the missiles “missed their target, overshot their target, or were pushed back by Ukraine’s air defense”.
“But I think we have to be very cautious about speculating until the details of the attack are clear,” Hull said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry quickly denied the reports, calling them “deliberate provocations aimed at escalating the situation”. “There are no strikes on targets near the border between Ukraine and Poland that were carried out by Russian forces,” it said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told the Reuters news agency that he had no information about the explosion.
For its part, Poland called emergency meetings of its national security council and ministers immediately after the reports emerged in response to what government spokesman Piotr Muller described as “difficult”.
The Polish government has increased the readiness of some of its armed forces and is considering whether to request talks with its allies under Article 4 of the NATO treaty, Muller told reporters.
He added that relevant information would be provided to the public later and asked the media not to publish “unconfirmed information” at this time.
Waves of anxiety
Condemnation and concern began to spread from across Europe after the news, with many officials accusing Russia of being behind it.
Latvian Deputy Prime Minister Artis Pabriks said on Twitter that Russia “launched missiles targeting Ukrainian civilians and also landed in NATO territory in Poland”.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for a NATO summit that would include Ukraine to provide a “firm” response to Russia, and urge Kyiv’s allies to provide the country with advanced weapons and aircraft.
“Today, protecting Ukraine’s airspace means protecting NATO,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, officials from Norway, Lithuania and Estonia – all NATO members – said they were trying to get more information.
“This is very difficult but the details are still unknown,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said, according to Norwegian news agency NTB.
Voices in Washington, DC, were also cautious, with White House National Security spokeswoman Adrienne Watson writing that the Biden administration “will determine what happened and what will happen”.
US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said the reports were “very concerning” but added the question of whether the attacks were intentional or accidental “may be important”.
The White House said President Joe Biden also spoke with his Polish counterpart, Duda, and was briefed on the incident.
Tuesday’s blast came amid a Russian offensive across Ukraine that Kyiv called the deadliest in nine months of war.
The explosion was reported in Lviv, which is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border with Poland.
The head of the European Union, Charles Michel, said that he was “shocked by the news that missiles or other weapons killed people in Polish areas”.
“We are with Poland. I will contact the Polish authorities, members of the European Council and their allies,” he wrote, adding that he will request a meeting on Wednesday with EU leaders at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
I just talked to @MorawieckiM.
He assured him of the EU’s full cooperation and solidarity in supporting Poland.
I will organize a coordination meeting on Wednesday with the EU leaders who will be there #G20 to # Bali.
– Charles Michel (@CharlesMichel) November 15, 2022