Poland calls 'urgent' defense meeting after alleged Russian missiles kill 2

Initial reports indicated that Russian rockets had hit a Polish town near the Ukrainian border, killing two civilians.

 People wave Polish and Ukrainian flags during a demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland February 20, 2022. (photo credit: Jacek Marczewski/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via REUTERS)
People wave Polish and Ukrainian flags during a demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland February 20, 2022.
(photo credit: Jacek Marczewski/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via REUTERS)

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki convened an urgent meeting of the Committee of the Council of Ministers for National Security and Defense Affairs on Tuesday, with initial reports indicating that stray Russian missiles hit a town near the border with Ukraine.

Russian rocket barrages targeted much of Ukraine on Tuesday, reaching as far as Lviv, which is about 70 kilometers from the Polish border.

Polish media reported that two people were killed in an explosion in the village of Przewodów, located near the border with Ukraine. Polish officials stated that the cause of the explosion is as of yet unknown, but the Polish Radio ZET station reported that two stray rockets fell on the town, causing the explosion. Government spokesman Piotr Müller stated that the urgent meeting was called "in connection with the crisis situation."

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to speak with Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak later in the day, CNN reported.

Poland is a member of NATO. While a direct attack on a NATO country could lead to Article 5 of the treaty being triggered, it is unclear if an accidental hit, such as stray rocket fire, would lead to such a decision. Article 5 dictates that if a NATO ally is a victim of an armed attack, all other members of the treaty will consider this an act of violence against the entire alliance and will take actions it deems as necessary to assist the attacked ally.

Smoke rises over the city after Russian missile strikes, amid their attack on Ukraine in Lviv November 15, 2022 (credit: Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters)
Smoke rises over the city after Russian missile strikes, amid their attack on Ukraine in Lviv November 15, 2022 (credit: Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters)

Russian Defense Ministry calls reports from Poland a 'deliberate provocation'

The Russian Defense Ministry called the reports about the impact of Russian missiles in Poland a "deliberate provocation," claiming that the Russian Armed Forces did not carry out any strikes near the Ukrainian-Polish border.

Neighboring states express concerns of escalation

Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks expressed his condolences to the Polish people, tweeting "criminal Russian regime fired missiles which target not only Ukrainian civilians but also landed on NATO territory in Poland. Latvia fully stands with Polish friends and condemns this crime."

The defense minister added that NATO could respond by providing further anti-aircraft defense in Poland and in part of Ukraine. Pabriks has invoked Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which would have the allies meet to hold a consultation on the situation and further action.

Latvia's Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced that he had called an emergency government meeting for Wednesday morning in order to evaluate the security situation in the region and "to be ready for further action."

"Latvia and its NATO allies are ready for any situation to defend their citizens and territories," said Kariņš.

In response to the reports, the Estonian Foreign Ministry tweeted "Latest news from Poland is most concerning. We are consulting closely with Poland and other Allies. Estonia is ready to defend every inch of NATO territory. We’re in full solidarity with our close ally Poland."

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda tweeted on Tuesday evening "Concerning news from Poland tonight on at least two explosions. Keeping a close contact with our Polish friends. Lithuania stands in strong solidarity with Poland. Every inch of #NATO territory must be defended!"

Hungarian Prime Minister Vikto Orban also convened a meeting of his country's defense council on Tuesday evening due to the missile fire that hit Poland and a temporary shutdown of the Druzhba pipeline between Ukraine and Hungary, according to Orban's press chief Bertalan Havasi.

Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová stated on Tuesday evening that she considers the reports of missile impacts in Poland to be "confirmed," according to the Czech Denik N news.

"Anyway, I consider it an escalation of the situation, even if it was a mistake. And even if it was provocation or intentional, we will all perceive it as an escalation of the conflict even in connection with what took place in Kyiv today," said Černochová.

Slovakian Defense Minister Jaro Nad expressed concerns over the reports, tweeting "Russia must explain what happened. Senseless attacks on infrastructure must stop immediately. Russia's recklessness is getting out of hand. Will be in close contact w/ @mblaszczak and Allies to coordinate response."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to the reports on Tuesday evening, stating "Today, what we warned about a long time ago happened. Terror is not limited to our national borders. Russian missiles hit Poland."

"How many times has Ukraine said that the terrorist state will not be limited to our country? It is only a matter of time before Russian terror goes further," added Zelensky. "The longer Russia feels impunity, the more threats there will be to anyone within reach of Russian missiles. To fire missiles at NATO territory. This is a Russian missile attack on collective security! This is a very significant escalation. We must act."

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated that Belgium "strongly condemns" the incident on Polish territory, adding that "Belgium stands with Poland. We are all part of the NATO family that is more than ever united and equipped to protect us all."

A spokesperson for the US National Security Council stated that the US is working with the Polish government to gather more information and is unable to confirm the reports or any details. "We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be," said the spokesperson.

Moldova hit by massive power outages amid Russian strikes on Ukraine

Additionally, on Tuesday, Moldova was hit by massive power outages after Russian strikes hit energy and utility sites in Ukraine, forcing a key powerline leading to Moldova to be temporarily disconnected as a safety measure.

The incident comes two weeks after debris from a Russian missile intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses fell on the village of Naslavcea in northern Moldova. No injuries were reported in the incident.

In mid-October, three cruise missiles fired by Russian ships towards Ukraine crossed Moldova's airspace, leading Moldovan deputy prime minister Nicu Popescu to summon the Russian ambassador to the country for an explanation.

Poland considering NATO Article 4 activation

Poland is verifying if it needs to request consultations under Article 4 of the NATO military alliance treaty, government spokesman Piotr Muller said on Tuesday. He also said Poland was increasing the readiness of some military units.

"A moment ago we decided to verify whether there are grounds to launch procedures under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty," Muller told reporters.

Muller also said Poland was increasing the readiness of some military units, but declined to take any question including about the cause of the incident.

"It was decided a moment ago to increase the readiness of some combat military units in Poland and to increase the combat readiness of other units of uniformed services in our country," he said.

Article 4 allows NATO members to bring any issue of concern, especially regarding security, for discussion at the North Atlantic Council.

NATO to meet on Wednesday at request of Poland for consultations 

NATO ambassadors will meet on Wednesday at the request of Poland on basis of the alliance's Article 4, two European diplomats told Reuters after an explosion in Poland close to the Ukrainian border reportedly caused by a stray Russian missile.

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

Biden offers Poland full US support in blast investigation

President Joe Biden offered his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda full US support with the country's probe into a blast that killed two people near the border with Ukraine, the White House said.

"President Biden offered full US support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation," the White House said after the pair spoke.

NATO allies are investigating unconfirmed reports the explosion was caused by stray Russian missiles.

No concrete evidence on who fired missile, Poland's Duda says

Poland has no concrete evidence showing who fired the missile that caused an explosion in a village near the Ukrainian border, the president said on Wednesday

"We do not have any conclusive evidence at the moment as to who launched this missile... it was most likely a Russian-made missile, but this is all still under investigation at the moment," Andrzej Duda told reporters.