Belarusian helicopters repeatedly violating Polish airspace, NATO, Russia conflict looming

Belarusian combat helicopters entered Polish airspace on Tuesday morning local time. This reports the German news website with reference to data from the Polish Ministry of Defense.

After a long review, the Polish Ministry of Defense announces on Tuesday evening that combat helicopters from neighboring Belarus flew through Polish airspace near Bielowieza. In response, Poland has decided to inform NATO and send more troops to the border with Belarus. In Poland, it is assumed that this was a deliberate provocation, Polish Defense Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz said in Warsaw. “This is absolutely dangerous. If such situations occur and escalate, our response will be commensurate with the potential danger.”

In addition to further troops, additional helicopters are to be deployed to the border with Belarus. Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko is considered a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin and most recently welcomed the Wagner Group mercenaries. Lukashenko jokes that he could send them to Warsaw for a “visit”. Poland, a NATO member that also shares a border with Ukraine, fears being dragged into the conflict even further.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs then confirmed the airspace violation Tuesday evening and said it had summoned the chargé d’affaires of the Belarusian embassy to “immediately explain the incident,” calling the violation another “element in escalating the tension at the Polish-Belarusian border.”

Mariusz Błaszczak, Poland’s defense minister, said Tuesday he had convened a meeting of the National Security and Defense Affairs Committee to discuss the incident.

As a result of the violation, Poland said it would increase the number of troops patrolling the Poland-Belarus frontier, in addition to allocating more forces and resources to the area. Błaszczak said he also notified NATO about the incident.

“Due to possible further provocations, we call for responsible dissemination and commentary on information that may be used by the Russian and Belarusian regimes,” said Błaszczak.

The Belarusian Ministry of Defense said the accusations were “far-fetched” and invented by Poland to justify building up forces by the border.

Tensions have risen between Minsk and Warsaw after a group of Wagner mercenaries in Belarus moved closer to the Polish border last month. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned that mercenaries could “try to infiltrate Poland pretending to be illegal immigrants,” and may stage a “hybrid attack.”

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