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NATO calls emergency meeting after missile kills two in Poland

Global leaders gathered at the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, on Wednesday following deadly explosions in Poland that Ukraine and Polish authorities said were caused by Russian-made missiles.

The meeting was called by US President Joe Biden, the White House said, after two people were killed in an explosion in Przewodow, a village in eastern Poland near the border with Ukraine.

The meeting was attended by leaders from the United States, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Spain, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. All but Japan are members of NATO, a defense alliance that also includes Poland.

A decision that Moscow was responsible for the blast could trigger NATO’s principle of collective defense known as Article 5, in which an attack on one member of the Western alliance is considered an attack on all, which could begin consideration of a possible military response.

The leaders were briefly spotted together at a conference table at the start of the meeting. Biden said “no” when reporters asked if he could share what he knew about the explosion. He did not comment on the question of how Russia could be involved in this. Officials said it was unclear how long the meeting would last.

Poland summoned Russia’s ambassador to Warsaw for an explanation after Moscow denied it was responsible.

The explosion occurred about 6 kilometers from Poland’s border with Ukraine on the same day that Russian forces fired another barrage of rockets targeting Ukrainian energy and other infrastructure.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country was highly likely to invoke NATO’s Article 4, which would open a discussion within the military alliance before any potential response.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has denied that its forces have fired missiles at targets near Ukraine’s border with Poland. And Duda said it was unclear who fired the rocket that caused the explosion.

One official from a Group of Seven country said the cautious, initial view was that there was little chance that Russia intended to attack Poland. There is a possibility that its military missed its intended target in Ukraine or that Ukrainian countermeasures knocked the missile off course.

There would be little incentive for Russia to deliberately target Poland, the person said, given the risk of a NATO response.

For months, there have been fears of the war in Ukraine spreading to other parts of Europe. And the desire to avoid being drawn into a wider conflict has seen NATO states refuse to send ultra-long-range missiles and advanced fighter jets to Ukraine and reject requests from Kiev to help establish an air defense zone over parts of the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that Russia had attacked with missiles that knocked out power to a large part of the population.

Putin is increasingly leaning toward missile strikes as his troops fight on the ground in a war in its ninth month. His army recently withdrew from a key city in southern Ukraine that was captured at the start of the war, the latest setback on the battlefield.

Two people at the scene of the explosion in Poland, who did not want to be named, said an outbuilding was damaged. One said the blast shook the windows of their car about 2 kilometers away. The other said police and military personnel had cordoned off the area and asked everyone to leave the farm, but nearby homes had not been evacuated.

Biden spoke earlier by phone with Duda and offered full U.S. support and assistance in the investigation into Poland and reaffirmed America’s commitment to NATO, according to a White House statement. American Defense Minister Lloyd Austin also spoke with his Polish counterpart.

Earlier on Tuesday, a barrage of rockets targeted Kyiv and other locations across Ukraine, striking civilians and critical infrastructure, in what authorities said was the most widespread such attack since the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s air defense forces said about 100 missiles were fired, surpassing the number from Oct. 10, when a broad attack hit Ukrainian settlements across the country and leveled infrastructure.

Missiles landing in Ukraine knocked out power to about 7 million homes across much of the country, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff to the Ukrainian president, said in televised comments.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previously warned of the possibility of casualties from the war in Ukraine spilling 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 activity, when we see that there is actually war going on near NATO’s borders, there is always a risk,” Stoltenberg said in March.

It is not the first time that Russia invaded Ukraine in February, when objects entered NATO airspace. In March, a six-tonne unmanned reconnaissance drone swept across Eastern Europe and crashed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb.

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