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Russia violates Poland’s airspace during cruise missile attack on western Ukraine

Russia violated Poland’s airspace with a cruise missile on Sunday as it launched a major air attack on western Ukraine, according to the Polish armed forces.

Russia launched air raids on or around several major Ukrainian cities, including Lviv near the Polish border and the capital Kyiv, just hours after Vladimir Putin vowed to take revenge for the Isis terror attack on a Moscow concert hall. The Russian president promised that anyone involved in the assault will be “justly and inevitably punished”.

Missiles targeting Lviv region in the early hours of Sunday morning passed close to the Polish border and, in one case, entered Poland’s airspace for as long as 39 seconds, forcing the Polish air force to place its F-16 fighter jets on high alert.

“On 24 March at 4.23am (3.23am GMT), there was a violation of Polish airspace by one of the cruise missiles launched overnight by long-range aviation of the Russian Federation,” the Polish armed forces said in a post on X.

“The object entered Polish space near the town of Oserdow (Lublin Voivodeship) and stayed there for 39 seconds. During the entire flight, it was observed by military radar systems,” it said, adding that all necessary procedures were launched to ensure the safety of Polish airspace.

“Polish and allied aircraft have been activated, which may result in increased noise levels, especially in the south-eastern part of the country,” the Polish armed forces said.

The southeastern part of Poland borders Ukraine. The statement added that the Nato nation activated all necessary procedures to ensure the safety of Polish airspace.

Poland’s defence minister WÅ‚adysÅ‚aw Kosiniak-Kamysz said that the country’s forces would have shot down the Russian missile had there been any indication that it was heading towards a target. The missile penetrated Polish airspace about 1,000 to 2,000 metres (0.6 miles to 1.2 miles).

Additionally, the Polish foreign ministry has said it will demand explanations from Russia over the airspace violation.

The ministry spokesperson said Poland has called on Russia “to stop terrorist air attacks on the inhabitants and territory of Ukraine, end the war and address the country’s internal problems”.

Despite Isis’s claim of responsibility for the attack on Moscow that killed at least 133 concert-goers on Friday, the Russian government has also attempted to suggest some Ukrainian involvement in the incident, with Putin saying four suspected gunmen were arrested on their way to Ukraine.

Kyiv has called the implication “absurd”, and Western nations have offered their sympathies to the Russian people and condemned the terror attack while stressing that there are no signs Ukraine had anything to do with it.

All of Ukrainian airspace remained under air raid alert on Sunday during the Russian air raid. Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko confirmed several explosions in the Ukrainian capital and said air defence systems were engaged in repelling the attack.

Ukraine’s air defences destroyed about a dozen Russia-launched missiles over Kyiv and in the vicinity of the capital, Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on Telegram.

Preliminary information showed no casualties or major damage as a result of the attacks, the official said.

Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi said while there were no attacks on the city itself, some 20 missiles and seven attack drones had been launched against the broader Lviv region, targeting "critical infrastructure".

Ukraine has been facing relentless Russian attacks each morning for days, which Moscow has framed as a retaliation for Ukrainian attacks on Russia during its recent presidential election.

"For the third pre-dawn morning this week, all of Ukraine is under an air alert and has been advised to seek shelter," US ambassador Bridget Brink posted on X early on Sunday.

"Russia continues to indiscriminately launch drones and missiles with no regard for millions of civilians, violating international law."

Russia’s defence ministry has yet to respond to Poland’s statement regarding the violation of its airspace or on the Sunday morning raids inside Ukraine.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Polish airspace has seen a number of intrusions from the Russian air forces.