Biden, allies hold ‘emergency’ talks
US President Joe Biden and leaders of key allies held “emergency” talks Wednesday after a missile hit Polish territory near the border with Ukraine, the White House said.
Leaders of the European Union and all G7 countries – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – were among those at the hastily arranged meeting in Bali, where they have been taking part in a G20 summit of major economies.
The White House website called the session an “emergency roundtable.” It took place behind closed doors after journalists were asked to leave.
The explosion in Poland, a NATO member, immediately sparked concerns that the alliance might be drawn into Russia’s nearly nine-month war against Western-backed Ukraine.
Poland’s military was on high alert after the deadly missile strike on a village near the border with war-ravaged Ukraine.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said there was no clear evidence of who fired the missile that killed two people in the southeastern village of Przewodow, near the border with Ukraine.
He also said the missile was “most probably Russian-made.”
An AFP journalist in Przewodow said police had cordoned off the blast site with sirens wailing in the distance.
Biden said it was “unlikely” the missile had been fired from Russia, while France urged “utmost caution” in identifying who was behind the blast.
Moscow’s ambassador has been summoned to provide “immediate detailed explanations” and the military had been put on heightened alert after an emergency national security council meeting, Polish authorities said.
“There has been a decision to raise the state of readiness of some combat units and other uniformed services,” spokesman Piotr Muller told reporters after the meeting in Warsaw, adding that “our services are on the ground at the moment working out what happened.”
Biden spoke by phone with Duda, offering “full US support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation,” the White House said. AFP
The two leaders agreed to “remain in close touch to determine appropriate next steps as the investigation proceeds,” it added.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron – all leaders of NATO member states – expressed solidarity with Poland.
Poland is protected by NATO’s commitment to collective defence – enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty – but the alliance’s response will likely be heavily influenced by whether the incident was accidental or intentional.
Biden also spoke with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg about the incident, while ambassadors from the alliance were to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday.
European Union chief Charles Michel said he was “shocked,” and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged to “remain closely coordinated in the days ahead as the investigation proceeds and we determine appropriate next steps.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier said two Russian missiles hit Poland in what he described as “a very significant escalation.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba rejected as a “conspiracy theory” the idea that the Poland blast may have been caused by a surface-to-air missile fired by Kyiv’s forces.
Russia’s defense ministry, meanwhile, dismissed reports that it was to blame as a “provocation” intended to escalate tensions.
The explosion came after Russian missiles hit cities across Ukraine on Tuesday, including Lviv, near the border with Poland.
Zelensky said the strikes cut power to some 10 million people, though it was later restored to eight million of them, and also triggered automatic shutdowns at two nuclear power plants.
He said Russia had fired 85 missiles at energy facilities across the country, condemning the strikes as an “act of genocide” and a “cynical slap in the face” of the G20.
Moldova, which also borders Ukraine, reported power cuts because of the missiles fired at its neighbour and called on Moscow to “stop the destruction now.”
Zelensky told the G20 summit in Bali on Tuesday that “now is the time” to end the war.
In their final communique Wednesday, G20 members said they agreed the war hurts the global economy and warned against the threat or use of nuclear weapons in the conflict.
“Most” of the world’s 20 biggest economies also condemned the war in Ukraine, the G20 nations said.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin had decided to skip the summit, as he dealt with the fallout from a string of embarrassing battlefield defeats in a war that his supporters believed would be over in days.