Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak (L) arrives at the National Security Bureau hedquarters in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called an urgent meeting of the Government Committee for National Defense and Defense Affairs, and later the prime minister and President Andrzej Duda called a meeting at the National Security Bureau with the committee. Photo by Radek Pietruszka/EPA-EFE
Nov. 15 (UPI) — Warsaw said a Russian-made missile struck a farm on its side of the Ukrainian-Polish border Tuesday afternoon, killing two people and raising fears over a potential escalation of the nearly nine-month-old war.
The missile landed in the village of Przewodow in Lubelskie province at about 3: 40 p.m. local time amid hours of Russian shelling throughout neighboring Ukraine, Warsaw’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said that the missile was Russian-made while President Andrzej Duda said that it is “most likely a Russian-made rocket” and that “we have no conclusive evidence at this time” as to who launched it.
Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a press briefing they are aware of reports of two Russian missiles striking Poland near the border but that they don’t have corroborating information at this time.
Russia has denied culpability, with its foreign ministry accusing Poland in a statement of attempting to escalate tensions, saying “the scene in Przewodow have no relations to Russian firepower.”
Poland, a member of the defensive military North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, held an emergency meeting and decided to increase combat readiness of some Army units, with focus on monitoring its skies, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
President Adrzej Duda said it is “highly likely” Poland’s ambassador to NATO will invoke Article 4, which members can invoke to discuss issues surrounding threats to their security or independence.
“Protection of Polands has been strengthened,” he said. “There are no indications that further such events will take place.”
Morawiecki told reporters that they have summoned the ambassador over the situation while warning the public that among Russia’s arsenal of weapons is chaos, confusion, manipulation.
“I appeal to all compatriots to remain calm, to be extra cautious of attempts of disinformation,” he said. “Now, in this hour, especially in such an hour, in such days, we must be together.
“We are safe together,” he said. “We won’t get intimidated. We are strong together.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed via Twitter that he has spoken to Duda and that they are monitoring the situation and allies are in close consultation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his nightly address Tuesday blamed Russia for the strike on Poland, and warned Baltic states that “it is only a matter of time before Russian terror goes further.
“We must put the terrorist in his place! The longer Russia feels impunity, the more threats there will be to everyone who can be reached by Russian missiles,” he said, while describing the incident as an “attack on collective security.”
On Telegram, the Ukrainian president said Russia launched 90 missiles at Ukraine on Tuesday, damaging energy infrastructure, enterprises and residential buildings.
The United States stopped short of directly attributing blame for the incident in Poland.
“We cannot confirm the reports or any of the details at this time. We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be,” said a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council in a statement on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the reports and has spoken with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
In brief remarks to the media following meetings with NATO leaders, Biden said they all agreed to support Poland’s investigation into the explosion.
“And I’m going to make sure we make sure exactly what happened,” he said. “And then we’re going to collectively determine our next step.”
Biden, who is in Bali, Indonesia, for the G20 summit, described Russian’s mass bombardment of Ukraine on Tuesday as “totally unconscionable.”
“The moment when the world had come together at the G20 to urge de-escalation, Russia has chosen to escalate in Ukraine, while we were in meeting,” he said.
Asked by reporters if the missile was fired from Russia, Biden said, “There is preliminary information that contests that.”
“I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate but it’s unlikely in the minds of trajectory that it was fired from Russia. But we’ll see.”
With an investigation seemingly underway to determine responsibility for the strike on Poland, the leaders of NATO and the G7 issued a joint statement reaffirming their “steadfast support for Ukraine” while condemning Russia’s Tuesday attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure as “barbaric.”
The nation of Moldova, which borders Ukraine, experienced outage when a power line from Ukraine had to be shut down due to safety concerns.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is “very concerned” by the explosion.
“It is absolutely essential to avoid escalating the war in Ukraine,” he said, according to a statement from his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.