Poland accuses Belarus of having flown two helicopters into its airspace, accusing the Moscow-aligned nation of escalating tensions and responding by deploying more troops and its own helicopters to the border.
Two Belarussian helicopters flew into Polish airspace on Monday, a statement by the Ministry of Defence said, revealing the aircraft entered Polish territory at very low altitude, flying below radar making them “difficult to detect”. Locals spotted the Belarus-colour-wearing helicopters flying low over their houses and posted the images to social media, reports state.
The helicopters were on a training mission which the Belarussian government had notified Poland in advance as taking place, but nevertheless Poland said the incursion was unacceptable and summoned the Belarus ambassador. The Polish defence minister Mariusz Błaszczak said in response to what the government called a provocation, he had ordered extra troops and “combat helicopters” to the border.
Belarus has denied that any such incursion took place. Deutsche Welle reports they called the claims “far-fetched” and that Poland had invented the incident to give a pretext for building up their military deployment on the border. The Belarussian defence ministry was more brusque in its response, accusing Poland of having presented no evidence the event took place, that it was acting on the orders of its “overseas masters” — the United States — and that the claim was no more than an “old wives’ tale”.
Despite Belarus’s denials, the alleged incursion comes after the country taunted Poland with threats of Wagner mercenaries — who relocated to Belarus after being expelled from Russia — wanting to go on holiday to Warsaw, a thin allusion to an invasion. Poland has been intensifying its defences at the Belarus border for some years now, and particularly when Belarus engaged in what was called an asymmetric warfare play.
Accused of trying to destabilise Europe by flooding it with migrants, it is claimed that Belarus was flying in alleged refugees directly from their home nations to Minsk before bussing them to the frontiers of Europe. Poland reacted to the waves of migrants trying to enter its territory from the east by rushing to construct a considerable border fence, but even then migrants being pushed West by the Belarussian government were allegedly given wire cutters by their soldiers.
Poland’s border force and police were reinforced by the army to push back this weaponised migrant wave in 2021, and has received further deployments in recent weeks since Wagner Group moved to Belarus. Last week, the Polish defence minister said:
The Polish army is still present on the border. Soldiers of the Polish Army still provide support to the Border Guard. But due to the fact that the Wagnerians appeared in Belarus, due to the fact the threat is still growing, apart from the operation involving soldiers with border guards, units of the Polish Army from the 12th and 17th Mechanized Brigade, whose task is to show our determination to defend every piece of Polish land, whose task is to deter the aggressor [are being deployed]
… that is why new units are being created in the east of our country – to scare away the aggressor, so that Russia does not decide to invade Poland.