Russian ambassador snubs Polish summons after missile breach

Cruise missile breached Poland's airspace during large attack on Ukraine

Polish soldiers take part in the Nato Dragon-24 military exercise in Korzeniewo, northern Poland, in March. AFP
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The Russian ambassador in Warsaw failed to appear on Monday after a summons was issued in response to a Russian cruise missile breach of Polish airspace.

Poland’s armed forces said there was a heightened state of readiness because of the “intensive long-range aviation activity of the Russian Federation" during an attack on Ukraine on Sunday night.

Warsaw demanded an explanation for the incursion, which prompted the Nato member to send up F-16 fighter jets, during Russia's third big missile attack on Ukraine in the past four days, and the second to hit Kyiv.

But the Russian ambassador Sergey Andreyev did not to show on Monday to discuss the incident.

He told state-run RIA Novosti that he did not visit the foreign ministry as Polish officials did not provide evidence of any incursion.

The governor of Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyi, said on the Telegram platform that critical infrastructure was hit during the attack on Ukraine, but did not say what was struck. No deaths or injuries were reported.

Later, authorities said rescuers had put out a fire at a critical infrastructure facility in the Lviv region, which had been attacked with missiles and drones at night and in the morning.

The head of Kyiv's military administration, Serhiy Popko, said Russia used cruise missiles launched from Tu-95 bombers. An air alert in the capital lasted for more than two hours as rockets entered Kyiv in groups from the north.

He said the attacks were launched from Engels district, in the Saratov region of Russia.

According to preliminary data, there were no casualties or damage in the capital, he said.

The Armed Forces Operational Command of Poland, a member of Nato, said there was a breach of Polish airspace at 4.23am by one of the cruise missiles launched by Russia against towns in western Ukraine.

The object entered near Oserdow, a village in an agricultural region near the border with Ukraine, and stayed in Polish airspace for 39 seconds, Poland's armed forces said.

It was not clear if Russia intended for the missile to enter Poland's airspace. Cruise missiles are able to change their trajectory to evade air defence systems.

Polish Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz later said in a televised news conference that the Russian missile would have been shot down had there been any indication that it was heading towards a target in Poland.

He said Polish authorities monitored the attack on Ukraine and were in contact with Ukrainian counterparts. Polish and Nato F-16s were activated as part of the response.

He said the missile penetrated Polish airspace for up to 2km as Russia was aiming at the region around Lviv in western Ukraine.

“As last night’s rocket attack on Ukraine was one of the most intense since the beginning of the Russian aggression, all the strategic procedures were launched on time and the object was monitored until it left the Polish airspace,” he said.

On the diplomatic front, the Polish Foreign Ministry said it would “demand explanations from the Russian Federation in connection with another violation of the country’s airspace”.

“Above all, we call on the Russian Federation to stop the terrorist air attacks on the inhabitants and territory of Ukraine, end the war and address the country’s internal problems,” the ministry said.

Andrzej Szejna, a deputy foreign minister, told the TVN24 broadcaster that the Foreign Ministry intended to summon the Russian ambassador to Poland and hand him a protest note.

Henryk Zdyb, head of the village of Oserdow, said in an interview with the daily Gazeta Wyborcza that he saw the missile, saying it produced a whistling sound.

“I saw a rapidly moving object in the sky. It was illuminated and flying quite low over the border with Ukraine,” he told the paper.

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago, there have been a number of intrusions into Polish airspace, triggering worry in the EU and Nato member state and reminding people of how close the war is.

“We have to come to terms with the fact that the war is taking place right next to us, and we are part of the confrontation between the West and Russia,” commentator Artur Bartkiewicz wrote in the Rzeczpospolita newspaper Sunday.

In 2022, two Poles were killed in a missile blast. Western officials blamed those deaths on a Ukrainian air defence missile that went astray, but also accused Russia of culpability because it started the war, with the Ukrainian missiles launched in self-defence.

On Saturday night, one person was killed and four others were wounded in a Ukrainian missile attack on Sevastopol on the Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula, city governor Mikhail Razvozhaev said on his Telegram channel.

Updated: March 28, 2024, 12:52 PM