Poland blames ‘Russian-made missile’ for deadly explosion near Ukrainian border

US President Joe Biden said after an emergency meeting with Western leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, that it was “unlikely” that a missile that killed two people near Poland’s border with Ukraine was launched from Russia.

Poland held emergency talks with its NATO allies after Warsaw said a “Russian-made missile” hit the village of Przewodów at 3:40 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

Photos posted on social media showed a damaged farm vehicle lying on its side next to a large hole. Local media reported that the casualties were farm workers.

Biden said on Wednesday that “preliminary information suggests that there is [the missile was fired from Russia]”.

“From the trajectory, it’s unlikely it was launched from Russia, but we’ll see,” he told reporters, adding there was a need to “investigate thoroughly” the incident.

Biden was speaking with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, as well as the president of the European Council and the European Commission.

Biden’s comments came after Poland’s president and prime minister did not confirm the Russian missile launch allegations at midnight news conferences, where they both appeared to avoid comments that could heighten tensions with Moscow.

“There is no conclusive evidence of who fired the rocket,” President Andrzej Duda said after an emergency security meeting with the Polish government. Duda also called the missile attack a “one-off incident.”

However, if the Polish investigation confirms that the missile was launched by Russia, it would be the first airstrike against a NATO country since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Poland will discuss the missile attack with its NATO allies on Wednesday. Duda said it was “highly likely” that Poland would trigger Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which involves discussing potential threats to alliance members, before considering Article 5, which would require other NATO members to come to the defense.

The Russian Ministry of Defense denied responsibility, adding that the missile launch by Russian forces was a “deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation”. Poland’s foreign minister summoned the Russian ambassador “for a detailed explanation immediately,” while Poland’s UN representative wrote on Twitter that he would raise the issue in the Security Council.

Map showing Przevodov, Poland after suspected Russian missile kills 2

The White House said Biden had spoken to Duda. Both the Pentagon and the U.S. National Security Council said they could not corroborate claims that Russia was behind the attack.

During the call with Duda, Biden said “the United States will fully support and assist the Polish investigation” and reiterated Washington’s “strong commitment to NATO,” according to the White House.

The blasts in eastern Poland came as Russia fired a slew of missiles at Ukrainian cities, damaging energy infrastructure and civilian buildings.

Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, were quick to blame Russia for the airstrike in Poland, though they offered no concrete evidence to back up those claims.

“Russian missiles hit Poland,” Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday night, adding that Moscow had fired 90 missiles at Ukraine.

After talking to Duda, Zelensky wrote on twitter “Ukraine, Poland, all of Europe and the world must be fully protected from terrorist Russia”.

Leaders of several NATO countries in central and eastern Europe have warned that the attack would mark a major escalation in the conflict if the Polish investigation proves that the Kremlin was behind the attack.

Two NATO officials told the FT that the situation had caused concern within the alliance, but not panic.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Warsaw would “intensify the preparation of selected units of the Polish Armed Forces, with special emphasis on airspace monitoring” with the assistance of the country’s allies. “All the leaders I spoke to today absolutely assured me of the support of the allies,” Duda said, adding that “we will consider this together.”

Moldova reported on Tuesday that it was cut off after a Ukrainian missile attack, a further sign that the conflict could spread as power lines connecting the two countries were automatically disconnected.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has called on the West to provide more air defense systems to protect the country from Russian attacks.

Additional reporting by James Politi in Washington

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