Lethal Blasts in Poland Rattle NATO as Russia Strikes Ukraine


Explosions reportedly caused by Russian missiles killed two people in Poland, prompting the NATO member to consider an appeal for assistance from its allies in the alliance.

Polish authorities are investigating the blasts that happened about 4 miles from the frontier with Ukraine. The government in Warsaw may invoke NATO's Article 4, which allows allies to raise discussions on national security threats, a spokesman said. 

“The authorities are on the spot and investigating the case and will continue to investigate it throughout the night or as long as necessary to clarify this case,” government spokesman Piotr Muller told reporters Tuesday. “We’ve also just decided to verify whether there are reasons to invoke procedures resulting from Article 4.” 

Muller didn’t confirm a report from The Associated Press, which cited a U.S. official it didn’t name, that the blast was caused by two Russian missiles. The strike also was reported by the Zet radio network in Poland. 

The incident occurred on a day when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had condemned the Russian invasion in a video address to Group of 20 leaders and his country had been hit by a barrage of missiles that knocked power for large parts of the population.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to retaliate after he was forced to withdraw his troops from a key city in southern Ukraine that was captured early on his invasion, the latest in a series of damaging setbacks on the battlefield. 

Two people at the scene, who asked not to be named, said a farm building had suffered damage from the blast. One said that the explosion had shaken the windows in their car over a mile away. The second said that police and military personnel had sealed off the area and asked everyone to leave the farm but that homes nearby had not been evacuated.

The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed on the reports out of Poland and would be speaking with President Andrzej Duda. Polish Defense Minister and Deputy Premier Mariusz Blaszczak will hold an “urgent conversation” with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “today,” the Polish Defense Ministry said on Twitter.

European Council President Charles Michel said he would call a coordination meeting on Wednesday of EU leaders attending the G-20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss the blasts. He tweeted that he spoke with Poland’s Morawiecki and “assured him of full EU unity and solidarity in support of Poland.”

Russia’s defense ministry said the reports were a provocation and denied that its military had aimed missiles at targets near to the border with Poland. 

Latvia’s defense minister, Artis Pabriks, said in a Bloomberg Television interview that he had received information about the incident from several sources, including the Polish authorities, and his government was seeking more confirmation of what had happened. 

“Latvia will support if Poland will require consultations under the NATO Article 4,” he said, referring to the principle that allows allies to raise discussions on national security threats. Following consultations, allies can choose to take joint action on behalf of NATO. 

Pabriks added that “the next steps in my view if this is fully confirmed should be a much more serious discussion about air defense systems, and in my view closing at least part of the Ukrainian sky.”

Earlier Tuesday, a barrage of missile attacks targeted Kyiv and other locations across Ukraine, hitting civilians and critical infrastructure in what authorities said was the broadest such assault since the Russian invasion in February. 

Ukraine’s air defense forces said that around 100 missiles were launched, exceeding the number from Oct. 10, when a broad missile attack hit Ukrainian settlements across the country and leveled infrastructure.

The missiles landing in Ukraine knocked out power for some 7 million households across much of the country, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian president’s deputy chief of staff, said in televised comments. 

Zelenskyy had earlier spoken via videolink to Group of 20 leaders gathered at a summit in Indonesia and demanded that Russian troops make a complete withdrawal before peace talks can take place. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has previously warned about the possibility for accidents from the war in Ukraine to spill over into alliance territory, stressing the importance of military communication channels with Russia to prevent misunderstandings from spiraling out of control.

“When we see more military activities, when we see actually fighting going on close to NATO borders, there’s always a risk,” Stoltenberg said in March.

It’s not the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine in February that objects have entered into NATO airspace. In March, a six-ton unmanned reconnaissance drone streaked across eastern Europe from war-ravaged Ukraine and crashed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb.

Gregory L. White, Andrea Dudik and Jennifer Jacobs contributed to this story.