Early Wednesday local time, Poland said that two people are dead after an explosion caused by misfired Russian-made missiles hit the eastern Polish village of Przewodów on Tuesday afternoon. The village is located on the Polish-Ukraine border, and the incident was first reported by local Polish radio.
“At 3:40 pm (local time), a Russia-made missile dropped on the village of Przewodów… and resulted in death of two citizens of the Republic of Polance,” Poland’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry added that it has also summoned the Russian ambassador and “demanded immediate and detailed explanation.”
So far, few details are known about the incident. But Polish media reported that shortly before 4 p.m., the suspected Russian missiles struck a grain dryer in the village, reportedly killing two people on the Polish side of the border. Local infrastructure and a tractor were reportedly damaged, too.
According to Polish media, police and military personnel are on scene.
While Poland’s Foreign Ministry said the missiles were Russian, Polish President Andrzej Duda stopped short of confirming their origin. According to AP, Duda said the information is still being verified, but they were “most probably” Russian-made.
“We are acting with calm,” Duda said. “This is a difficult situation.”
Following news of the missile strikes, U.S. President Joe Biden called an emergency meeting with G7 leaders (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the European Union) while at the G20 summit in Bali to discuss the situation in Poland. He reportedly said that it is “unlikely” that the missiles were fired from Russia.
“There is preliminary information that contests that,” Biden told reporters. “It is unlikely in the lines of the trajectory that it was fired from Russia, but we’ll see.”
World leaders agreed to support Poland in its investigation to figure out exactly what happened, Biden said.
Earlier in the day, State Fire Department of Hrubieszów spokesperson Capt. Marcin Lebiedowicz told ONET, “We received reports of an explosion at the drying yard. After we arrived on scene, we confirmed something like that happened. Two people died at the scene. At the moment, we’re securing the site and are putting a spotlight on the action’s site,”
“The causes of this incident aren’t known at this moment,” he said, in Polish.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said the incident represents “a very significant escalation.”
The fatalities follow a day of Russian rocket barrages targeting much of Ukraine and fell just west of the Ukrainian city of Lviv, a refugee and foreign fighter hub for the Kyiv government that has been the target of strikes before. The onslaught of attacks have caused widespread blackouts across Ukraine.
Russia’s Defence Ministry has denied Russian involvement in the incident at the Polish village, and said media reports amount to a “deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation."
"No strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border were made by Russian means of destruction,” the ministry said, adding that the destruction has “nothing to do with Russian weapons.”
According to a tweet from a national government spokesman, Poland Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki declared an urgent meeting of his national security council, but officials didn’t publicly say why.
“Please don’t publish unconfirmed information, we will speak about them after the meeting,” government spokesperson Piotr Müller told reporters.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “NATO is monitoring the situation and allies are closely consulting. Important that all facts are established.”
The killings could be the first reported deaths from a Russian military strike outside of Ukraine and in Europe since the Kremlin’s invasion of the country began in February 2022, and could raise fears of a widening conflict. Poland, a NATO member, is subject to Article 5 of the alliance treaty which holds that one attack against a member state may be considered an attack against all.
One U.S. intelligence source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and on background to VICE News, described the strike as a Russian misfire not intended for Poland. Two unnamed U.S. officials also told the Associated Press it was a Russian missile that entered Poland’s territory.
A spokesperson for the Polish military did not immediately reply to a request for comment from VICE News. In the past, the Russian government has repeatedly warned Poland to stay out of the conflict with its neighbor, while top ranking Kremlin officials have even threatened war against Warsaw if Poland intervened.
Currently, the U.S. military has a deployment of the 101st Airborne Division in Poland along the border with Ukraine as part of a NATO mission to support regional allies who fear Russian military expansion. Poland is also believed to be a key transit point for the flow of Western weapons to the Ukrainian military, via the land border. The Biden Administration has already committed billions of dollars worth of armaments to Ukraine.