Poland is putting the military on alert after a reported Russian attack

Head of the National Security Office Jacek Siewiera (L) and Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller make a statement after an emergency meeting of the National Security Office in Warsaw November 15, 2022. (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

by Dario Thuburn with Dmytro Gorshkov in Kyiv
Agence France-Presse

WARSAW, Poland (AFP) – Poland put its military on heightened readiness on Tuesday after reports said Russian missiles landed within the NATO member’s borders, prompting a possible major escalation of the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of firing the missiles at Poland, but there was no immediate confirmation from Warsaw or Washington, and Moscow dismissed the reported attacks as a “provocation” aimed at escalating tensions.

The possible strikes, which have reportedly killed two people, have been widely condemned, with EU chief Charles Michel saying he is “shocked” and French President Emmanuel Macron calling for talks at the ongoing G20 summit in Indonesia.

Warsaw put its military on high alert following an emergency National Security Council meeting.

“A decision was made to increase the state of readiness of some combat units and other uniformed services,” spokesman Piotr Muller told reporters after the meeting in Warsaw.

The US State Department said Washington “will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be.”

Poland is protected by NATO’s commitment to collective resistance – enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty – but even if a cross-border attack is confirmed, the Alliance’s response would likely be heavily influenced by whether it was accidental or deliberate.

“Today Russian missiles hit Poland, the territory of an allied country. People died,” Zelenskyy said in an address to the nation, describing the alleged strikes as “a very significant escalation.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted to urge NATO members to convene an “immediate” summit.

Hungary, also a NATO member bordering Ukraine, has convened its national defense council in response to the reports, a spokesman for Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.

The reports came after Russian missile strikes hit cities across Ukraine on Tuesday – including Lviv near the border with Poland – which Kyiv said cut off power to seven million homes.

Zelenskyi said Russia fired 85 rockets at energy facilities across the country and condemned the strikes as an “act of genocide” and a “cynical slap in the face” by the G20 as world leaders gathered for a summit from which he is expected to tackle the war in Ukraine.

Moldova, which also borders Ukraine, reported power outages over rockets fired at its neighbors and urged Moscow to “stop the demolition now.”

– ‘Now is the time’ –
On Monday, Zelenskyy paid a surprise visit to Kherson, announcing that Ukraine’s recapture of the key southern city marks “the beginning of the end of the war.”

He said at the G20 summit in Bali on Tuesday that “now is the time” to end the war, while Washington said Russian attacks in Ukraine “reinforce concerns among the G20 about the destabilizing effects of Putin’s war.” “.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Russia was again trying to destroy Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

Since September, Ukrainian forces have been advancing further south. Russia last week announced a full withdrawal from the regional capital of the southern Kherson region, allowing Ukrainian forces to re-enter the city.

Tuesday’s rocket attacks came after Russian-appointed officials in Nova Kakhovka said they were abandoning the key southern city, blaming artillery fire by Kiev forces.

They also claimed “thousands of residents” followed their recommendation to leave to “save themselves” and said Kiev’s forces were seeking “revenge on collaborators.”

– Key dam endangered –
Nova Kakhovka lies on the east bank of the Dnipro River, today a natural dividing line between the Ukrainian forces that recaptured the city of Kherson on the west side and the Russian forces on the opposite bank.

It is also home to the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, which was captured early in the invasion for its strategic importance in supplying the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

The Russian-controlled dam is in particular focus now after Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of plotting to blow it up to trigger a devastating flood.

Defects in the dam would cause water supply problems in Crimea, which has been under Russian control since 2014 and is set to be retaken from Ukraine.

Russian forces said last week that a Ukrainian strike had damaged the dam.

The Russian-appointed head of the occupied part of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said Tuesday the dam was no longer operational.

“The situation is more dangerous – not with electricity generation – but with the dam itself, which in the event of an explosion would flood a fairly large area,” he said, according to Russian agencies on the state TV channel Rossiya-24.

The loss of Kherson was the latest in a series of setbacks for the Kremlin, which invaded Ukraine on February 24 in hopes of a blitz takeover that would topple the government in days.

© Agence France-Presse