Poland doubles troops reinforcing Belarus border to 2,000
PHOTO CAPTION: Illustrative photo — A Polish soldier assigned to the 1st Territorial Defense Forces Brigade conducts rifle training as part of tactical urban movement training near Bialystok, Poland, Sept. 6-10, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Alger via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)
WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will send 2,000 troops to its frontier with Belarus, the deputy interior minister told state-run news agency PAP on Wednesday, twice the number requested by the Border Guard, to stem illegal crossings and maintain stability.
Poland has worried increasingly about the border area since hundreds of battle-hardened Wagner mercenaries arrived in Belarus last month at the invitation of President Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus started military exercises near the border this week, and Lukashenko said several times that he is restraining Wagner fighters who want to attack Poland.
Poland has also seen an increase in the number of mainly Middle Eastern and African migrants trying to cross the border in recent months. For the past two years it has accused Belarus of recruiting migrants in poor countries and sending them across the border illegally to foment instability.
"This reinforcement will be not by 1,000, but by 2,000 soldiers," Maciej Wasik told PAP. "This decision was made by the Security Committee, this decision was made by (Defence) Minister Mariusz Blaszczak"
On Monday had Wasik said that the Border Guard was requesting an additional 1,000 soldiers be deployed.
Wasik said that all attempts to illegally enter Poland by migrants were now being organised by Belarusian authorities.
"If we had real border guards on the other side, and not smuggling services, these crossings would not exist at all," he said.
The Belarusian embassy in Warsaw did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Belarus started military exercises near the border this week.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Peter Graff)