The US Department of Defense responded to Russian missile fire near the Polish border by reiterating that Washington and its allies would defend NATO territory in the event of an attack.
“An armed attack against one is considered an armed attack against all,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told US broadcaster ABC on Sunday, referring to NATO agreements for mutual military support.
This is also why US and other NATO forces are increasing their presence on the eastern border of the alliance area, he said.
Hours earlier, Russia struck a military training area in a missile attack not far from the Ukrainian city of Lviv, killing at least 35 people and injuring dozens. The site of the attack is not far from the border of NATO member Poland.
“We have made it very clear to Russia that NATO territory will be defended, not just by the United States, but also by our allies,” Kirby said. He pointed out that there was an existing communication line to the Russian Defence Ministry to avoid direct conflict.
US President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking to NBC on Sunday, also stressed that the US will defend “every inch” of NATO territory. However, the US military will not intervene directly in Ukraine in order to avoid a confrontation with Russia, he said.
The exodus of refugees fleeing Moscow’s war on Ukraine continued on Sunday, with most seeking safety in neighbouring Poland as the Russian bombardment gained intensity.
Almost 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, the Polish Border Guard tweeted on Sunday.
On Saturday alone, around 79,800 people crossed the border, an increase of 5% compared to the previous day. The influx was particularly strong at the Medyka border crossing in the Subcarpathia Province.
On Sunday, another 16,800 Ukrainians were registered between midnight (2300 GMT) and 7 a.m., the border guard said.
No official information is currently available about how many of the refugees stayed in Poland and how many have already travelled onwards to other EU states.
The number of people who have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion had already exceeded 2.5 million, the UN Refugee Agency said last week.
Meanwhile a woman was killed when a coach carrying about 20 refugees from Ukraine crashed on a motorway in Italy.
The bus ran off the road near Cesena, near the Adriatic coast, trapping the woman who died of her injuries. A further five passengers were injured, but not seriously, the police said, noting it was unclear what had caused the accident.
The Ukrainian capital Kiev is preparing for a possible blockade by Russian troops by setting aside food stockpiles to feed 2 million residents for a fortnight, the city’s deputy head of administration, Valentyn Mondryivskyy, said.
“These 2 million Kiev residents who have not left their homes will not be left alone,” he said
The authorities and the business community have done their best to open shops and pharmacies in recent days and to keep prices “at an affordable level,” Mondryivskyy said.
Heavy fighting continues to the north-west and east of Kiev and many fear Russian troops could surround the capital in the coming days.