WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s defense minister said Thursday that the country intends to put 10,000 soldiers along its border with Belarus. The statement comes as Warsaw worries about the presence of Russian-linked mercenaries in Belarus and migrants trying to cross the border.
Meanwhile, the Polish military announced that it was carrying out a search in the area near the border with Belarus for fuse lost from a missile, but said it poses no threat because “the detonator has built-in protections.” It said the fuse was lost during “intensive activities using specialized equipment to ensure security.”
“On Tuesday, after the end of combat flights, one of the helicopters carrying out a patrol in the border area was found to have no fuse in one of the missiles. The flight was carried out along the border strip and did not take place over built-up areas,” the military said in a statement.
The military appealed to locals to alert police if they see it.
In an interview on state radio, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said 10,000 soldiers would ultimately be deployed to the border area. He made the announcement a day after a different official said Poland was sending 2,000 additional troops to the border, essentially doubling its military presence there. The soldiers are being sent to reinforce the work of police and Border Guard officers.
For two years, Poland has contended with migrants arriving at the border from Belarus trying to enter the country illegally. The government in Poland and other countries along NATO’s eastern flank have accused Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russia, of opening the migration route in an act of “hybrid warfare” aimed at creating instability in the West.
Poland is also worried about the presence of Wagner group fighters who deployed to Belarus after a short-lived mutiny in Russia in June. Anxieties were further heightened last week when two Belarusian military helicopters briefly entered Polish air space, something Warsaw viewed as a deliberate provocation.
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