Poland to send 10,000 troops to border with Belarus

Poland to send 10,000 troops to border with Belarus

Announcement comes a day after Belarusian presidential office 'appeal to Poles' in which Poland was encouraged 'to be wise enough to refrain from armed confrontation'

By Jo Harper

WARSAW (AA) – Poland has announced an increase in troop deployment on its border with Belarus from 2,000 to 10,000 as tensions between the two countries have risen in recent weeks over the presence of the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group in Belarus.

Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told Polish Radio 1 on Thursday that "4,000 will be directly involved in supporting the Border Guard at the border, and 6,000 will be in reserve, training there."

The announcement came a day after a Belarusian presidential office "appeal to Poles" in which Poland was encouraged "to be wise enough to refrain from armed confrontation."

The text of the appeal was released on the third anniversary of Belarus' presidential election, according to the BelTA news agency.

"Brothers Poles. We are neighbors. The Belarusian and Polish nations have hundreds of years of common history. There is no reason to treat the Belarusian land as Poland’s Eastern Borderlands," said the address to the Polish people, which was adopted at a meeting of “patriotic forces” of the Republic of Belarus on Wednesday.

The statement alluded to Poland's historical links to lands that became part of the Soviet Union after WWII.

"We would like to believe that you will not be deceived by aggressive propaganda. History knows many examples of how Belarusians repelled the invasion from the West. Take your time to experience it for yourself," it added.

However, Blaszczak told Polish Radio that the appeal could lead to further provocations along the Polish-Belarusian border.

“Of course, this is a provocation. We have to be ready for various scenarios, (and) we do not exclude anything. That is why we decided to move troops closer to the border to deter the aggressor,” he said.

In his talks to the broadcaster, he also mentioned another reason for the deployment, stating that there has been an increase in the number of attempts by Middle Eastern and African irregular migrants to illegally cross the border from Belarus.

On Wednesday, the Polish government announced plans to deploy an additional 2,000 troops to its border with Belarus, accusing the Belarusian authorities of facilitating illegal migration.

According to Blaszczak, approximately 20,000 attempts have been made this year to illegally cross the green border from Belarus into Poland and the EU. Last year, it was less than 16,000 people. In July, it was a record-breaking month, with nearly 4,000 people attempting to enter Poland.

Polish authorities allege that each illegal border crossing between Belarus and Poland takes place with the participation of Belarusian services, and the procedure is organized by local officers, which Minsk denies.

Poland recently claimed that the Wagner Group, which is reportedly encamped in Belarus, could arm migrants crossing the border in order to provoke a reaction from Warsaw.

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