Poland and fellow Nato states held consultations after two people were reportedly killed by a possible Russian missile strike on a Polish village, as Moscow’s forces launched another deadly rocket barrage against Ukraine’s cities and power grid.
Polish media reported that two people were killed when stray missiles hit Przewodow, about 10km from the border with Ukraine, and the Associated Press cited an unnamed senior US intelligence official as saying they were fired by Russia.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller confirmed the two fatalities but not the cause of the explosion that killed them. He said Poland’s national security committee had been convened to discuss the incident and that Warsaw was considering whether to trigger Nato’s Article 4, which would prompt a meeting of the alliance due to a threat to a member state’s “territorial integrity, political independence or security”.
“It was decided... 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,” Mr Muller added.
The White House said US president Joe Biden had re-affirmed to his Polish counterpart the “ironclad commitment” of the United States to Nato.
It said Mr Biden spoke to Polish president Andrzej Duda and expressed deep condolences for the loss of life in the incident in eastern Poland.
“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,” the White House said after the call.
“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.”
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said he had spoken to Mr Duda “about the explosion in Poland. 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.”
Russia’s defence ministry dismissed the reports as “a deliberate provocation intended to escalate the situation. No strikes were made against targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border by Russian weapons.”
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The incident intensified fears that Russia’s attack on Ukraine could drag in Nato, whose members commit to defending one another under the alliance’s Article 5.
Gitanas Nauseda, president of Poland’s neighbour Lithuania, tweeted that his country was “keeping a close contact with our Polish friends. Lithuania stands in strong solidarity with Poland. Every inch of Nato territory must be defended!”
Latvian defence minister Artis Pabriks quickly accused Moscow, tweeting that the “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.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who wants his country to join Nato, said that “the longer Russia feels impunity, the more threats there will be to anyone within reach of Russian missiles ... This is a very significant escalation. We must act.”
Kyiv said at least one person was killed on Tuesday when Russia fired more than 90 missiles at Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure. Officials said about 70 of the rockets were shot down, but others did more damage to Ukraine’s power grid, causing another wave of blackouts as winter draws in.