On Tuesday, two Russian cruise missiles flew over Ukraine and ended up in eastern Poland. Two Polish citizens were killed. The missiles were part of an overnight bombardment of more than 100 air and sea-launched cruise missiles aimed at Ukraine's electricity generation, transmission, and distribution systems.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called an emergency session of the Polish cabinet to debate the “terrorist” attack. Consultations with NATO will likely follow. Although the US Defense Department has not assigned any official blame for the incident, information from intelligence officials blamed Russia.
A few pro-Russian sources claimed that it was the result of a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile that went off the rails. But this is highly unlikely since Western surface-to-air missiles possess self-destruct mechanisms that stop a live missile with no target lock from bouncing across vast stretches of land. The location of the impact is what makes this scenario all the more unlikely. Surface-to-air missiles fired by Ukraine at incoming Russian missiles should have exploded in Ukraine.
Russian media figures don't seem to be debunking the story, either. For instance, the editor-in-chief of RT (Russia Today), Margarita Simonyan, shared her thoughts. “Now Poland has its own Belgorod region. What did you expect?” This was referring to Ukrainian attacks on a Russian city, Belgorod. (She appears to have received a memo, as her Telegram account now blames the Brits.)
Russia issued an official announcement through Tass: “The statements of the Polish media and officials about the fall of ‘Russian’ missiles in the Przewoduv region are a deliberate provocation, the Russian Armed Forces did not strike any targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border, the Russian Defense Ministry said.”
Contrary to some claims, this event will not trigger NATO consultations under the mutual defense clauses of Article 5, but instead under Article 4. Therefore, those who are shivering in fear of a nuclear conflict over an unintentional missile strike should take a breather and regain control of their muscles.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Two weeks ago, a Russian cruise missile was intercepted by Ukraine and struck Moldova. As long as Russia attacks civilian structures in western Ukraine, this will take place. NATO and the European Union should take action to inform Russia that this is not acceptable behavior.