Poland’s highest-level defense officials scrambled to meet in Warsaw after receiving reports of sudden explosions in a village near the country’s border with Ukraine. The blasts came as Russia launched its biggest-ever barrage of missile attacks against Ukrainian sites since the Russian invasion in February 2022.
Officials in Poland confirmed reports of two dead in the sudden attacks in the Hrubieszów district in eastern Poland. As of this writing, the Polish government had been unable to confirm that the explosions came from Russian missiles, but speculation among reports shows they could have been a victim of the Russian assault.
Near the town of Przewodow, reporters discovered a large crater along with destroyed farm equipment. Residents say they heard a large “whoosh” as a projectile buzzed the town. The blast wave from the explosion itself rattled windows more than 650 feet from the town’s school. Social media reports from inside Przewodow said the police, prosecutor’s office and Polish Army were on site.
Speculation that the missile attacks came from Russia right away, as President Volodmyrr Zelensky immediately blamed the Russian armed forces for extending the fight outside of Ukraine’s borders. The Russian foreign ministry denied any Russian involvement in the explosions, tweeting: “Russian hardware has launched NO strikes at the area.”
In a statement, Russia called the claim of Russian missile attacks “a deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation.” Poland has not yet confirmed or denied the allegations of Russian involvement.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called a meeting of the Committee of the Council of Ministers for National Security and Defense Affairs. Poland is a member of NATO and the Polish national security apparatus is in close contact with the alliance headquarters in Brussels, who is in turn in contact with President Joe Biden, who is currently in Indonesia for a G20 summit.
Of Biden’s response, the White House said the president “has been briefed on the reports out of Poland and will be speaking with President Andrzej Duda of Poland shortly.”
According to the U.S. State Department, the United States has around 10,000 troops in Poland, mostly in the western areas of the country. While the explosions weren’t a threat to American troops, Article 5 of the NATO charter provided that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies, meaning any spillover of war in Ukraine could lead to an all-out conflict between NATO and Russia.
French and British statements called for a full analysis of what occurred in Poland before deciding on a course of action. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were much more firm in their response.
“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,” said Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks.
The U.S. military has been conducting readiness drills in the event that such a spillover occurred, but as officials wait to hear the real cause of the explosions, there is speculation that a Russian source could provoke a forceful response from members of the NATO alliance. In the meantime, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki has raised the readiness level of the Polish Armed Forces.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder reaffirmed American policy toward the region and the alliance, telling reporters, “We’ve been crystal clear that we will defend every inch of NATO territory.”
Russia has launched hundreds of missiles at targets in Ukraine within the past week, wreaking havoc on Ukrainian infrastructure, power grids and civilian populations. The Ukrainian Defense ministry says it successfully shot down 73 of the 90 missiles launched from Russia over the evening of Nov. 15, 2022 alone.