The missiles which killed two people in Poland were “probably an unfortunate accident” from the Ukrainian air defence, the Polish Presient has said.
Polish media reported that two people died on Tuesday afternoon (15 November) after a projectile struck an area where grain was drying in Przewodow, a Polish village near the border with Ukraine. The settlement lies around four miles north of the border.
Reports initially suggested that this was a Russian missile, which had accidentally been fired into Poland - a NATO member. Moscow immediately denied this.
However now the Polish President Andrzej Duda has said it appears to have been an “unfortunate accident”. He said it was highly probably the rocket, which was Russian made, had been used by Ukrainian air defence. There were no grounds to believe that the missile incident was an intentional attack, he added, or that the rocket was launched by Moscow.
Rishi Sunak had earlier said it is important to remain calm and to establish the facts. Speaking at the start of a session on digital transformation at the G20 summit in Bali, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday (16 November) it was “critical” to protect the international order.
Several world leaders gathered at the summit at an “emergency round table” to discuss the blast. Among the attendees were President Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
US President Joe Biden has said it is “unlikely” that the missile was fired from Russia and “preliminary information” contested the reports. Sunak tweeted: “I have just spoken with the Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary. We are urgently looking into reports of a missile strike in Poland and will support our allies as they establish what has happened. We are also coordinating with our international partners, including NATO.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had spoken by phone to Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday. “Expressed condolences over the death of Polish citizens from Russian missile terror. We exchanged available information and are clarifying all the facts,” he tweeted. Mr Zelensky said that Ukraine, Poland and “all of Europe and the world must be fully protected from terrorist Russia”.
What has Russia said?
Russia dismissed claims it was responsible, with the defence ministry in Moscow attacking what it called “a deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation”. Its defence ministry said that it was from a Ukrainian anti aircraft weapon.
In a statement it added: “We also want to stress that no missile strikes were launched at any facilities in Kiev within high-precision firepower’s massive attack on the facilities located in Ukraine.
“All the destructions in the residential quarters of the Ukrainian capital, demonstrated by the Kiev regime, are the direct consequence of the fall and self-destruction of the air defence missiles launched by Ukrainian forces from the foreign-manufactured air defence systems deployed within the city limits.
“We want to emphasise that the high-precision attacks were launched only at the targets located in Ukraine and no closer than 22 miles from the Ukrainian–Polish border.”
But Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said any claim that Ukraine was responsible was a Russian “conspiracy theory”, and that anyone amplifying the message was spreading “Russian propaganda”.
Will NATO respond?
Poland is a member of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). The treaty means that if a member state is threatened by an external country, a mutual defence will be given in response. Ukraine is not a NATO member, so the West has not actively intervened there following Russia’s invasion in February.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has tweeted to say that he spoke to Polish President Andrzej Duda about the explosion: "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.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: "We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with our Polish friends and NATO allies."
The missile strike comes while world leaders are meeting at the G20 summit in Bali. French President Emmanuel Macron said he is in contact with Poland and envisages talks at the summit tomorrow on the incident.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte tweeted: “Serious reports about missiles landing in Poland and causing fatalities. We’re in close contact with Poland and our other Nato allies. It’s important now to establish exactly what has happened. We are monitoring the situation very closely.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Ukraine was hit by a wave of Russian airstrikes across the country, leaving half of Kyiv without electricity and killing at least one person. In the western city of Lviv and Kharkiv in the north-east, critical energy facilities were targeted that knocked out power.
What has the US said?
US President Joe Biden spoke at the G20 summit, saying: “This morning we’ve already met with our fellow Nato and G7 leaders to address Russia’s latest missile strikes against Kyiv and Western Ukraine – it’s merciless. It’s way over the top.
“At the moment where world leaders meeting here in Bali are seeking progress on world peace, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s striking civilian targets, children and women. It’s almost – in my words, not yours – barbaric.”
Mr Biden reaffirmed the US’s commitment to Nato and offered full support with the investigations, the White House said.
Mr Biden and Andrzej Duda spoke on Tuesday, following the incident. A White House readout of the call said that Mr Biden “spoke with President Andrzej Duda of Poland and expressed deep condolences for the loss of life in Eastern Poland earlier this evening”.
The White House said: “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. President Biden offered full US support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation.
“President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to NATO. The two leaders said that they and their teams should remain in close touch to determine appropriate next steps as the investigation proceeds.”
This is a developing story and will continue to be updated.