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Moscow says Kyiv responsible for Poland missile blast that killed 2

Western officials also say explosion likely caused by Ukrainian interceptor; had sparked international concern over a possible further escalation of conflict

Police officers work outside a grain depot where, according to the Polish government, an explosion of a Russian-made missile killed two people in Przewodow, Poland, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)
Police officers work outside a grain depot where, according to the Polish government, an explosion of a Russian-made missile killed two people in Przewodow, Poland, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)

PRZEWODOW, Poland — Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine of a deadly blast in Poland, with Belgium saying it was probably caused by Kyiv’s air defenses firing at Moscow’s incoming missiles.

The explosion in a farm building on Tuesday killed two people, leaving the village of Przewodow in shock and sparking international concern over a possible further escalation of the conflict.

Ambassadors from members of the NATO military alliance went into emergency talks in Brussels after Poland put its military on high alert in the wake of the blast and summoned Russia’s ambassador.

“Based on the preliminary information available, the strikes are most likely a result of Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems that were engaged to take Russian missiles out of the sky,” Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden had said it was “unlikely” the missile came from Russia, and the Kremlin said it had “nothing to do with” it.

“Photographs of the wreckage… were unequivocally identified by Russian military experts as fragments of a guided anti-aircraft missile of a Ukrainian S-300 air defense system,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.

It added that “strikes were carried out on targets only on the territory of Ukraine and at a distance of no closer than 35 kilometers from the Ukrainian-Polish border.”

US President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Poland following a meeting with G7 and European leaders on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 16, 2022. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

But Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba earlier rejected as a “conspiracy theory” the idea that it may have been a Ukrainian missile.

The impact occurred in the village of Przewodow at 1440 GMT on Tuesday, killing two farm workers.

Police cordoned off the blast site and sirens could be heard wailing in the distance.

“I’m scared. I didn’t sleep all night,” said Anna Magus, a 60-year-old teacher at the local elementary school.

“I hope it was a stray missile because otherwise we’re helpless,” she said.

‘Exercise restraint’

In Indonesia’s Bali, Western leaders cautioned against jumping to any conclusions.

China said “all relevant parties should stay calm and exercise restraint to avoid escalation,” while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for a “careful investigation” and warned against “hasty” judgments.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during the G20 leaders summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, Pool)

According to a copy of his speech seen by AFP, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the missile incident was “a true statement brought by Russia for the G20 summit.”

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski also called for caution but told RMF radio that “in all likelihood, we are dealing with a consequence of Russia’s actions.”

He also responded to criticism of Poland’s defenses.

“Missile defense systems around the world are never one hundred percent effective systems that protect each millimeter of every country’s territory,” he said.

Poland on Tuesday held an emergency national security council meeting and summoned Moscow’s ambassador over the incident to provide “immediate detailed explanations.”

The government also said it had raised “the state of readiness of some combat units and other uniformed services.”

Police block a road on November 16, 2022, near the site where a missile strike killed two men in the eastern Poland village of Przewodow, near the border with war-ravaged Ukraine, as Poland has said there is no clear evidence on who launched the missile. (Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP)

NATO commitment

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and still holds swathes of Ukrainian territory despite a series of battlefield defeats in recent months.

Poland — which shares a 530-kilometer (329-mile) border with Ukraine — has taken a lead in the region in providing military and humanitarian assistance to its eastern neighbor and sanctioning Russia.

The conflict has caused deep unease in Poland where memories of Soviet domination are still raw.

Poland is protected by NATO’s commitment to collective defense — enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty — but the alliance’s response will likely be heavily influenced by whether the incident was accidental or intentional.

Warsaw has said it may invoke Article 4 of the treaty under which any member can call urgent talks when it feels its “territorial integrity, political independence or security” are at risk.

‘Closer to the world war’

Zelensky called the missile incident “a very significant escalation” while Russia’s defense ministry dismissed reports that it was to blame as a “provocation” intended to raise tensions.

“The incident with the Ukrainian-alleged ‘missile strike’ on a Polish farm proves just one thing: waging a hybrid war against Russia, the West moves closer to the world war,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s security council, said on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a speech to the media in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The explosion came after Russian missiles hit cities across Ukraine on Tuesday, including Lviv, near the border with Poland.

Zelensky said the strikes cut power to some 10 million people, though it was later restored to eight million of them, and also triggered automatic shutdowns at two nuclear power plants.

He said Russia had fired 85 missiles at energy facilities across the country, condemning the strikes as an “act of genocide” and a “cynical slap in the face” of the G20.

Moldova, which also borders Ukraine, reported power cuts because of the missiles fired at its neighbor and called on Moscow to “stop the destruction now.”

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