WARSAW: Poland put its military on high alert Tuesday after what the country’s president said was “most probably” a strike by a Russian-made missile.
Western leaders were scrambling to respond to the potential major escalation of the war in Ukraine, with an “emergency roundtable” due to be held Wednesday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.
Warsaw said the missile killed two people in the village of Przewodow but did not have conclusive evidence of who fired it, adding that Moscow’s ambassador has been summoned to provide “immediate detailed explanations”.
Poland put its military on heightened alert after an emergency national security council meeting.
“There has been a decision to raise the state of readiness of some combat units and other uniformed services,” spokesman Piotr Muller told reporters after the meeting in Warsaw, adding that “our services are on the ground at the moment working out what happened.”
President Joe Biden spoke by phone with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, offering “full US support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation”, the White House said.
The two leaders agreed to “remain in close touch to determine appropriate next steps as the investigation proceeds”, it added.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron – all leaders of NATO member states – expressed solidarity with Poland.
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.
Biden also spoke with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg about the blast in Poland, while ambassadors from the alliance were to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday (16th of November, 2022).
European Union chief Charles Michel said he was “shocked”, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pledged to “remain closely coordinated in the days ahead as the investigation proceeds and we determine appropriate next steps”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier said two Russian missiles hit Poland in what he described as “a very significant escalation.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba rejected as a “conspiracy theory” the idea that the Poland blast may have been caused by a surface-to-air missile fired by Kyiv’s forces, while Russia’s defence ministry dismissed reports that it was to blame as a “provocation” intended to escalate tensions.
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”.
Here are some of the major reactions from other nations:
– United States –
The White House said US President Joe Biden was holding an “emergency roundtable” on Wednesday with allies to discuss the missile strike.
The meeting in Bali, where a G20 summit is underway, was set to include the leaders of all other G7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Earlier, Biden called Duda. The two leaders “said that they and their teams should remain in close touch to determine appropriate next steps as the investigation proceeds,” according to the White House.
Speaking to reporters in Bali, he said the United States and its allies will “figure out exactly what happened” in Poland.
– Ukraine –
The president of Ukraine, which has been fighting a brutal Russian invasion since February, offered condolences to Duda in a call.
“We exchanged information and are clarifying all the facts,” Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissed as a “conspiracy theory” that the missile may have been fired by Ukrainian air defenses.
– Russia –
The defence ministry in Moscow dismissed reports that missiles fired by Russian forces had landed in Poland.
“Polish mass media and officials commit deliberate provocation to escalate (the) situation with their statement on alleged impact of ‘Russian’ rockets,” it said in an online statement.
“Russian firepower has launched no strikes at the area.”
– Germany –
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed solidarity with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
“The chancellor has just telephoned Polish President Duda and expressed his condolences… Germany stands closely by the side of our NATO partner Poland,” Scholz’s spokesman tweeted.
– Britain –
NATO member Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Duda to express “solidarity”, Downing Street said.
“The Prime Minister offered any assistance needed to urgently establish what happened,” it added.
– France –
French President Emmanuel Macron had called for talks at the G20 summit in Indonesia over the strike, his office told the Media prior to the White House roundtable announcement.
In France’s National Assembly, State Secretary Sonia Backes delivered a message to deputies from Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne: “The government is following the situation on the ground in conjunction with our Polish allies very closely.”
“In any case, Poland can count on France’s solidarity.”
– European Union –
EU chief Charles Michel said he was “shocked” by reports of the strike.
“My condolences to the families,” he tweeted.
“We stand with Poland. I am in contact with Polish authorities, members of the European Council and other allies.”