Blast kills two in eastern Poland as Russian missiles batter neighbouring Ukraine
WARSAW/KYIV - Two people died in an explosion in a Polish village near the border with Ukraine on Tuesday, firefighters said, with the United States and western allies saying they were investigating unconfirmed reports the blast was caused by stray Russian missiles.
The explosion occurred after Russia hammered cities across Ukraine with missiles on Tuesday, attacks that Kyiv said were the heaviest wave of missile strikes nearly nine months into its invasion of its neighbour. Some hit the western city of Lviv, less than 80km from the border with Poland.
The explosion was in Przewodow, a village in eastern Poland about 6km from the border with Ukraine, firefighters said. Media reports said the strike hit a grain-drying facility.
Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) Western military alliance. Members of Nato are committed to collective defence, so a Russian strike on Poland could risk widening the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which began with Moscow’s invasion in February.
A Nato official said the alliance was looking into the report and was closely coordinating with Poland.
Germany and Canada said they were monitoring the situation, and the European Union, the Netherlands and Norway said they were seeking more details. French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a verification effort.
Mr Fabrice Pothier, former head of policy planning in the Nato secretary-general’s office, told Sky TV that it was too early to say whether the possible strike was intentional or accidental.
But the events were enough to trigger Nato’s Article 4 under which Poland would call a Nato meeting “to consult each other, to assess the threat and to take concrete action”, Mr Pothier said. Nato ambassadors were due to hold a regular weekly meeting on Wednesday.
The Associated Press earlier cited a senior US intelligence official as saying the blast was due to Russian missiles having crossed into Poland.
Russia’s defence ministry said no strikes occurred against targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border that had been carried out by Russian weapons, IFX news agency reported.
In Washington, the Pentagon said it could not confirm Russian missiles had landed on Polish territory.
“We are aware of the press reports alleging that two Russian missiles have struck a location inside Poland near the Ukraine border. I can tell you that we don’t have any information at this time to corroborate those reports and are looking into this further,” Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called an urgent meeting of a government committee for national security and defence affairs on Tuesday night, Nato spokesman Piotr Muller said on Twitter.
Polish Radio ZET reported that two stray missiles hit Przewodow, killing two people, without elaborating.
“Firefighters are on the spot, it’s not clear what has happened,” said Mr Lukasz Kucy, an officer on duty at a nearby firefighters’ post.
Air raid sirens blared and explosions rang out in nearly a dozen major Ukrainian cities, echoing a pattern in recent weeks of Moscow lashing out far from the front after losses on the battlefield, most recently the major southern city of Kherson.
Russia had launched 110 missiles and 10 Iranian-made attack drones into Ukraine by early evening, Ukraine’s armed forces general staff said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the main target of the missile flurry was energy infrastructure, as before.
“It’s clear what the enemy wants. He will not achieve this,” he said in a video address on the Telegram messaging app. The capital Kyiv has said such strikes only stiffen its resolve to repel Russian forces that invaded in February.
In Kyiv, flames funnelled out of a five-storey apartment block after being hit by what residents said appeared to be shot-down pieces of missile. The emergency service said one person was confirmed killed and another injured. Kyiv’s mayor said half the capital was left without electricity.
Other strikes or explosions were reported in cities ranging from Lviv and Zhytomyr in the west to Kryvy Rih in the south and Kharkiv in the east. Regional officials reported that some of the attacks had knocked out electricity, water and heating.
The attacks had left millions of Ukrainians without energy in 16 of the country’s 24 regions including Kyiv, said the United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) said.
“The damage to civilian infrastructure comes at a critical time when the temperature is dropping below zero, raising concerns about a serious humanitarian crisis during the harsh Ukrainian winter if people are unable to heat their homes.”
Just four days ago, Russian troops abandoned Kherson city in the south, the only regional capital Moscow had captured since its invasion, and six weeks after President Vladimir Putin declared it an eternal part of Russia.
Moscow had said last week its troops would occupy positions easier to defend on the opposite bank of the Dnipro River that bisects Ukraine. But video images filmed in the town of Oleshky, across a collapsed bridge from Kherson, appeared to show Russian forces had vacated their bunkers there too.
Further east, Russian-installed administrators said they were pulling civil servants out of Kherson province’s second biggest city, Nova Kakhovka, on the river bank next to a huge, strategic dam.
Ms Natalya Humenyuk, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said Moscow seemed to be repositioning troops and artillery 15-20km further from the Dnipro, to protect its guns from Ukrainian counter-strikes.
Russia had artillery still capable of striking Kherson from those new positions, but “we also have something to answer with”, she said. - REUTERS
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