Two people were killed Tuesday after a Russian-made missile landed in an eastern Polish village.
Poland is a member of NATO, which operates under the principle of collective defense.
Poland said Wednesday it’s “highly probable” the missile was an air-defense weapon fired by Ukraine.
Two people were killed after a missile landed in an eastern Polish village on Tuesday, triggering global concern about an incident in NATO-held territory amid Russia’s largest missile barrage in its war on neighboring Ukraine. The incident seemingly marks the first time that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has spilled across Ukraine’s borders and into the territory of a NATO member.
The missile landed in the village of Przewodów, which is located in eastern Poland a short distance from Ukraine’s western border, and reportedly came amid a barrage of over 90 Russian missiles that targeted Ukraine’s infrastructure.
On Wednesday, a statement from the office of Poland’s president said it was “highly probable” that Ukraine had launched the surface-to-air missile in response to the Russian barrage and that “we have no evidence at the moment” that the Russian-made S-300 missile was fired by Russian forces.
After the Tuesday incident, the country’s prime minister called an emergency defense committee meeting. Russia denied reports that its weapons landed in Poland, with its state-run TASS news agency calling reports they had “a deliberate provocation.”
A spokesperson for Poland’s Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that a “Russian-made missile fell” into the region and that an ambassador for the Russian Federation has been asked to provide an immediate explanation.
The damage shifts attention onto the NATO alliance, which has repeatedly warned it will defend the territory of its allies from Russia. Poland is a member of the NATO, which operates under the principle of collective defense — enshrined in Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty. Under this agreement, an attack against one NATO country is considered an attack against the entire military alliance. But Article 5 has only been invoked once in NATO’s history, following the terror attacks against the US on September 11, 2001.
Article 5 states that NATO members will assist the attacked party or parties by “taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
It’s unclear what caused the Russian projectiles to land in Poland, which could have a major bearing on how the alliance reacts.
The US and its Western allies have warned Russia repeatedly that an attack on NATO territory would trigger a strong response.
“We have a sacred obligation under Article 5 to defend each and every inch of NATO territory with the full force of our collective power,” President Joe Biden said in March.
Adrienne Watson, the White House National Security Council spokesperson, said Tuesday afternoon that “we’ve seen these reports out of Poland and are working with the Polish government to gather more information. We cannot confirm the reports or any of the details at this time. We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be.”
Echoing these comments, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said during a press briefing that the US is “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.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters he did not think the apparent strike was intentional.
“I have to believe that it was a mistake by Russia,” he said, per The Washington Post’s Liz Goodwin. “And I think if it is, Russia should come out very quickly and say that.”
Poland’s foreign affairs ministry and NATO did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider. The Russian government also did not respond to an inquiry.
The incident immediately triggered remarks from top officials in neighboring countries.
“My condolences to our Polish brothers in arms. Criminal Russian regime fired missiles which target not only Ukrainian civilians but also landed on NATO territory in Poland. Latvia fully stands with Polish friends and condemns this crime,” Latvia’s defense minister said on Twitter.
A spokesperson for the Hungarian government said that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would also convene a meeting of the country’s defense council in response to “the missile hitting territory of Poland.”
The incident comes as Russia fired a barrage of missiles across Ukraine on Tuesday, leaving half the population of Kyiv without power.