Poland says it is ready to “isolate” Belarus to protect border

Poland says it is ready to “isolate” Belarus to protect border
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw July 28, 2023

Poland could close its border with Belarus completely should it consider such a move a necessary response to any “serious provocation" by Minsk, Home Affairs Minister Mariusz Kaminski said on July 27.

Poland has been eyeing the 418-kilometre-long border with Belarus with extra vigilance since the relocation there of the Wagner mercenary group from Russia. 

Warsaw says the border has long been the target of Belarusian provocations. In 2021, Minsk began channelling migrants from the Middle East and Africa – who were flown into Belarus deliberately – to apply pressure on Polish border guards and military.

Poland has since built a barrier spiked with cameras and other means of electronic surveillance.

But the presence of the Wagnerites in Belarus has heightened the risks to border security now.

“We are ready for different scenarios. No green men will ever be allowed to run at our borders,” Kaminski said in Krynki, a town just a couple of kilometres from the border with Belarus, referring to the informal description of paramilitary groups that were instrumental in Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014.

"The Wagner group are extremely dangerous mercenaries, merciless and ruthless. They have shown in Africa, Ukraine, and the Middle East … what they are capable of doing in the territories where they appear," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Sutno, another town near the Polish-Belarusian border, on the same day.

The government’s top figures visiting the Polish-Belarusian border are also part of the unfolding campaign ahead of the election due this autumn.

“We are the complete opposite of our predecessors who limited the Polish Armed Forces [especially] to the east of the Vistula River,” Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in the town of Koden near the border, which he also visited on July 27.

Poland has recently relocated extra troops near the border in response to the arrival of the Wagner group following the mercenaries’ alleged coup attempt in Russia in June.

After Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February last year, Poland has become Nato’s strategic eastern outpost. Poland borders Ukraine, Russia’s ally Belarus, and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.