World leaders gathering at the G20 summit in Bali are attempting to diffuse a potential escalation in the months-long Ukraine war after a “Russian-made” missile landed inside NATO-member Poland killing two people.
The missile landed outside the rural Polish village of Przewodow, about four miles (6.4 kilometers) west from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday, roughly the same time as Russia launched its biggest wave of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities in more than a month.
The circumstances surrounding the incident, which marks the first time a NATO country has been directly struck during the almost nine-month conflict, remain unclear. It is not known who fired the missile, or where it was fired from, although the Polish Foreign Ministry has 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 their air defense system.
Speaking to reporters after holding an emergency meeting with G7 and NATO leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, US President Joe Biden said preliminary information suggested it was “unlikely” the missile was fired from within Russia, but was unable to say conclusively until the investigation was complete.
“We agreed to support Poland’s investigation into the explosion … And I’m going to make sure we figure out exactly what happened,” Biden said, adding the leaders offered sympathy over the death of two people. “Then we’re going to collectively determine our next step as we investigate and proceed. There was total unanimity among the folks at the table,” he added.
Biden said he briefed others gathered on his discussions with Polish President Andrzej Duda and with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
In comments earlier Tuesday, Duda noted that while it was not clear who launched the missile, it was “most likely” produced in Russia. “We are working calmly and in a very calm manner,” Duda said during an address from the Bureau of National Security in Warsaw.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in the explosion, with Russia’s Defense Ministry calling the reports by Polish media, who first reported the deaths,”a deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation,” according to a short statement late Tuesday.
It added that the photos of wreckage published by Polish media “from the scene in the village of Przewodow have nothing to do with Russian weapons.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN he had no information on an explosion in Poland.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Tuesday that evidence suggests the missile that landed in Przewodów was a “single act” and there is no evidence of further missile strikes.
But while urging calm, Morawiecki said Poland should increase its military readiness and was contemplating the activation of Article 4 of the NATO Treaty. Article 4 is a consultation method that allows members of the 30-country alliance to bring an issue – usually about security – for discussion at the North Atlantic Council, its decision-making body.
Whatever the outcome of the Polish-led investigation, the incident has reinforced longstanding concerns related to the risk of battlefield miscalculation triggering NATO-Russian conflict.
Witness to the blast described hearing a terrifying “whoosh” as the projectile flew over the town and the force of the explosion shook nearby windows.
Video taken by a resident, which was geolocated and confirmed by CNN, shows a large smoke plume in the center of the village.
At the site of the explosion, local media showed an image of a crater and an upturned farm vehicle. CNN cannot independently confirm the photos.
In his address, Duda said the US would send experts to investigate the site as part of a joint operation.
Speaking after a call with Duda Tuesday, NATO head Stoltenberg said it was “important that all facts are established”
“I offered my condolences for the loss of life. NATO is monitoring the situation and Allies are closely consulting. Important that all facts are established,” said Stoltenberg in a statement.