Poland rocket blast: World leaders hold emergency meeting as ‘Russian-made’ weapon kills two in Przewodow


World leaders gathering at the G20 summit in Bali are trying to defuse a potential escalation in the months-long war in Ukraine after a “Russian-made” missile struck NATO member Poland, killing two people.

The missile landed near the rural Polish village of Przewodow, about four miles (6.4 kilometers) west of the Ukrainian border on Tuesday afternoon, around the same time Russia launched the largest wave of rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities after more than a month.

The circumstances surrounding the incident, which marked the first time a NATO country has been directly hit during the nearly nine-month conflict, remain unclear. It is not known who fired the missile or where exactly it was fired from, although the Polish Foreign Ministry described it as “Russian-made”.

Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have used Russian-made munitions during the conflict, with Ukraine deploying Russian-made missiles as part of its air defense system.

Speaking to reporters after holding an emergency meeting with G7 and NATO leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit, US President Joe Biden said preliminary information suggested it was “unlikely” the missile had been fired from Russia, but was unable to say definitively until the investigation was completed.

“We agreed to support the Polish investigation into the explosion … And I’m going to make sure we find out exactly what happened,” Biden said, adding that the leaders expressed sympathy for the deaths of two people. “Then together we will determine our next step as we investigate and move forward.” There was total unanimity among the people at the table,” he added.

After Biden’s statement, a NATO military official told CNN that the missile was tracked by an alliance plane flying over Polish airspace at the time of the blast.

“Intel with the radar tracks [of the missile] was provided to NATO and Poland,” the NATO military representative added. The NATO spokesman did not say who fired the missile or where it was fired from.

Tuesday’s missile strike on Poland’s borders “would not have happened without Russia’s horrific missile attacks on Ukraine,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a statement online Wednesday.

“The G7 and current NATO members have convened a meeting this morning in Bali during the G20 to discuss the incident in Poland last night. We are united in our message that we must first establish the facts and therefore support Poland’s investigation,” Rütte wrote.

In comments earlier Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda noted that while it was unclear who fired the missile, it was “most likely” made in Russia. “We are working calmly and in a very calm way,” Duda said during an address from the National Security Bureau in Warsaw.

The Kremlin denied involvement in the blast, with Russia’s Defense Ministry calling Polish media reports that first reported the death a “deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation,” according to a brief statement late Tuesday.

It added that the photos of the remains published by Polish media “from the site of the accident in the village of Przewodow have nothing to do with Russian weapons.”

Russia’s UN mission said on Wednesday that “the incident in Poland is an attempt to provoke a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia”, adding that the incident will be the focus of a UN Security Council meeting later in the day .

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that evidence showed the rocket that landed in Przewodów was a “one-off act” and there was no evidence of further missile strikes.

But while calling for calm, Morawiecki said Poland would increase its military readiness and was considering activating Article 4 of the NATO Treaty. Article 4 is a consultation method that allows members of the 30-nation alliance to put an issue — usually security-related — up for discussion at the North Atlantic Council, its decision-making body.

Whatever the outcome of the Polish-led investigation, the incident has heightened long-standing concerns about the risk that battlefield miscalculations could spark a conflict between NATO and Russia.

A witness to the blast described hearing a terrifying “whoosh” as the shell flew over the city and the force of the explosion shook nearby windows.

Video taken by a resident, which has been geolocated and verified by CNN, shows a large plume of smoke in the center of the village.

At the site of the explosion, local media showed an image of a crater and an overturned farm truck. CNN could not independently confirm the photos.

In his address, Duda said the US would send experts to study the site as part of a joint operation.

Speaking after a call with Duda on Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was “important that all the facts be established”.

“I expressed my condolences for the loss of life. NATO is monitoring the situation and allies are consulting closely. It is important that all the facts are established,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

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