A Russian-made missile landed in Poland and killed two people on Tuesday, the Polish foreign ministry said, raising fears other NATO member states could be drawn into war with Russia.
“A Russian-made missile fell, killing two citizens of the Republic of Poland,” said Polish foreign ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina.
He said the Russian ambassador to Poland had been summoned to give “immediate detailed explanations.”
A senior US intelligence official also said Russian missiles had crossed into NATO member Poland and killed two people.
The strike marks the first time in the war that Russian weapons have come down on a NATO country. Under article 5 of the NATO treaty, “an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies,” raising the prospect that Poland’s fellow NATO members may be obliged to come to its defense.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said there was no proof indicating who fired the missile.
“We do not for the moment have unequivocal evidence of who fired the missile. An investigation is ongoing. It was most probably Russian-made,” Duda told reporters on Wednesday.
Duda said he had spoken to US President Joe Biden who had promised “support in the form of American experts to help us investigate at the site of this tragic incident.”
Duda also said it was “highly likely” that Poland’s ambassador to NATO will request urgent consultations under Article 4 of the NATO Treaty at a meeting with other alliance ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.
Article 4 of the NATO Treaty states that consultations can be called when any NATO member feels their “territorial integrity, political independence or security” are at risk.
Poland put some military units on a heightened state of readiness after the blast, a government spokesman said.
“There has been a decision to raise the state of readiness of some combat units and other uniformed services,” spokesman Piotr Mueller told reporters after an emergency national security council meeting in Warsaw.
Mueller said top Polish leaders were holding an emergency meeting due to a “crisis situation.”
The projectile hit the village of Przewodów, near the border with Ukraine, as Russia pounded Ukrainian energy facilities with its biggest barrage of missiles yet, striking targets across the country and causing widespread blackouts.
Polish media reported that two people died Tuesday afternoon after a projectile struck an area where grain was drying in Przewodów.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urged Poles “to remain calm in the face of this tragedy.”
“We must exercise restraint and caution,” Morawiecki said after emergency government meetings in Warsaw.
NEW: Footage reported to show the immediate aftermath of the explosion in Poland today pic.twitter.com/vTsbg0CpYX
— Faytuks News Δ (@Faytuks) November 15, 2022
The Russian Defense Ministry denied being behind “any strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border” and said in a statement that photos of purported damage “have nothing to do” with Russian weapons.
“Polish mass media and officials commit deliberate provocation to escalate situation with their statement on alleged impact of ‘Russian’ rockets at Przewodow,” Russia’s defense ministry said in statements posted online.
Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky blamed the Russians, labeling the incident a “very significant escalation,” and declaring that “we must act.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, called for NATO members to convene an “immediate” summit to bring tough measures against Moscow.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) November 15, 2022
“A collective response to Russian actions must be tough and principled. Among immediate actions: a NATO summit with Ukraine’s participation to craft further joint actions, which will force Russia to change its course on escalation, providing Ukraine with modern aircraft,” Kuleba said in a statement on Twitter.
Kuleba dismissed allegations claiming Ukraine was responsible for the explosion in Poland.
“Russia now promotes a conspiracy theory that it was allegedly a missile of Ukrainian air defense that fell on the territory of Poland. This is not true. No one should buy Russian propaganda or amplify its messages,” Kuleba said.
A NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the alliance was looking into reports of the strike in Poland. The US National Security Council said it was also looking into the reports.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was important to find out the facts about what caused the deadly explosion after holding talks with Duda.
Stoltenberg will hold urgent talks Wednesday with alliance ambassadors over the blast, a spokesperson said.
Biden spoke with Duda and Stoltenberg after the blast.
President of the European Council Charles Michel said he was “shocked” by the reports and offered condolences to the families of those killed.
“We stand with Poland. I am in contact with Polish authorities, members of the European Council and other allies,” he wrote.
Hungary, also a NATO member, convened its national defense council after the explosion.
Moldova, which borders Ukraine, was also apparently affected by the Russian strikes. Moldova reported massive power outages after the attacks knocked out a key power line that supplies the small nation, an official said.
The missile strikes plunged much of Ukraine into darkness and drew defiance from Zelensky, who shook his fist and declared: “We will survive everything.”
Zelensky said Russia fired at least 85 missiles, most of them aimed at the country’s power facilities, and blacked out many cities.
His energy minister said the attack was “the most massive” bombardment of power facilities in the nearly 9-month-old Russian invasion, striking both power generation and transmission systems.
Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Haluschenko described the missile strikes as “another attempt at terrorist revenge” after military and diplomatic setbacks for the Kremlin. He accused Russia of “trying to cause maximum damage to our energy system on the eve of winter.”
The aerial assault, which resulted in at least one death in a residential building in the capital Kyiv followed days of euphoria in Ukraine sparked by one of its biggest military successes — the retaking last week of the southern city of Kherson.
The power grid was already battered by previous attacks that destroyed an estimated 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on the retreat from Kherson since his troops pulled out in the face of a Ukrainian offensive. But the stunning scale of Tuesday’s strikes spoke volumes and hinted at anger in the Kremlin.
By striking targets in the late afternoon, not long before dusk began to fall, the Russian military forced rescue workers to labor in the dark and gave repair crews scant time to assess the damage by daylight.
More than a dozen regions, among them Lviv in the west, Kharkiv in the northeast and others in between, reported strikes or efforts by their air defenses to shoot missiles down. At least a dozen regions reported power outages, affecting cities that combined have millions of people. Almost half of the Kyiv region lost power, authorities said. Ukrainian Railways announced nationwide train delays.
Zelensky warned that more strikes were possible and urged people to stay safe and seek shelter.
“Most of the hits were recorded in the center and in the north of the country. In the capital, the situation is very difficult,” said a senior official, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.
He said a total of 15 energy targets were damaged and claimed that 70 missiles were shot down. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said Russia used X-101 and X-555 cruise missiles.
As city after city reported attacks, Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians to “hang in there.”
With its battlefield losses mounting, Russia has increasingly resorted to targeting Ukraine’s power grid, seemingly hoping to turn the approach of winter into a weapon by leaving people in the cold and dark.
In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities found a body in one of three residential buildings that were struck in the capital, where emergency blackouts were also announced by power provider DTEK.
Video published by a presidential aide showed a five-story, apparently residential building in Kyiv on fire, with flames licking through apartments. Klitschko said air defense units also shot down some missiles.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra took to a bomb shelter in Kyiv after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart and, from his place of safety, described the bombardment as “an enormous motivation to keep standing shoulder-to-shoulder” with Ukraine.
“There can be only one answer, and that is: Keep going. Keep supporting Ukraine, keep delivering weapons, keep working on accountability, keep working on humanitarian aid,” he said.
Ukraine had seen a period of comparative calm since previous waves of drone and missile attacks several weeks ago.
The strikes came as authorities were already working furiously to get Kherson back on its feet and beginning to investigate alleged Russian abuses there and in the surrounding area.
The southern city is without power and water, and the head of the UN human rights office’s monitoring mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, on Tuesday decried a “dire humanitarian situation” there.