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NATO states race to contain fallout after missile hits Poland


US President Joe Biden and key European leaders are urging caution after a missile struck a Polish village just over the border from Ukraine, as doubts grow over whether Russia was to blame and, if so, whether it had been an accident, according to Bloomberg.

The attack, which killed two people at a village about 6 kilometers from the frontier with Ukraine late Tuesday, comes as tensions are already high with Russia over its February invasion of Ukraine. Moscow fired a missile barrage at Ukrainian infrastructure earlier in the day, causing energy outages across the country.

Some leaders initially suggested the missile that landed in Poland had been launched by Russia, but by Wednesday morning the picture was less clear, with some even suggesting it could have been Ukraine’s missile defense sending a Russian projectile off course.

It’s not clear who actually fired the rocket that hit the village, according to Agnieszka Scigaj, a minister in the Polish prime minister’s office. But she added that Ukraine also uses the type of projectile that landed. 

Asked if the missile had been launched from Russia, Biden told reporters in Bali, where he was attending a G20 summit, that “there is preliminary information that contests that.” Given the trajectory of the rocket it was unlikely it was fired from Russia, he added, “but we’ll see.”

His caution was echoed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who called for a thorough probe of the “terrible incident,” while a senior French official said nobody wanted an escalation with Russia that could spin out of control. Identifying that the missile was Russian-made would not prove who launched it, the official said. 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, NATO members have repeatedly aired concerns about being pulled directly into the conflict. While they have supported Ukraine with weapons and financial aid, Europe and the US have drawn the line at sending it the longest range missile systems and advanced fighter jets and rebuffed Ukraine’s calls to set up an air defense zone over its airspace.

Russia’s Defense Ministry denied its forces had aimed missiles at targets near Ukraine’s border with Poland. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Bali he respected Russia’s statement as well as the remarks from Biden.

Poland says it is still investigating what happened. In the meantime, President Andrzej Duda said Tuesday he was highly likely to invoke Article 4 of the NATO charter, which would kick off a discussion within the military alliance ahead of any potential response. NATO ambassadors will meet on Wednesday.

“The North Atlantic Alliance is on standby,” Duda said. “We have strengthened the readiness of the Polish armed forces, including the air defense. Our planes will be supported by allied planes. We act calmly and prudently.”