Polish soldier stabbed at Belarusian border dies

Polish soldier stabbed at Belarusian border dies
Polish soldiers reinforcing the wire at the Belarus border. / bne IntelliNews
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw June 7, 2024

A Polish soldier, who was stabbed at the border with Belarus in late May, died on June 6. 

His death highlights the Polish authorities’ struggle to control the border, where migrants, prompted by Belarusian forces, are trying to breach border defences in what Poland calls a “hybrid war” waged by Minsk – an ally of Russia – to destabilise Nato's Eastern Flank state. 

“A young soldier, Mateusz, gave his life defending the border of the Republic of Poland. The homeland and compatriots will not forget this sacrifice,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on X. 

Poland said it would demand Belarus handed over the person responsible for the attack on the soldier, who served in the 1st Armoured Brigade, normally stationed in Warsaw.

Poland has retained an increased military and police presence along the border with Belarus since 2021 when Minsk began flying in migrants, promising them entry into the EU.

Tusk's government has in essence continued the controversial policy of the preceding Law and Justice administration, which used illegal "pushbacks" to block refugees from claiming asylum in Poland. Several dozen refugees have died at the border of exposure and other causes over preceding winters after sometimes not being allowed either to go forward to Poland or back to Belarus.

The soldier’s death happened at the worst possible time for Tusk's government as Poland is about to vote in the European election on June 9. 

The government is already facing attacks by the opposition over news that three soldiers were detained a few weeks ago at the border after firing warning shots to prevent a group of migrants from crossing into Poland from Belarus.

The prosecution alleges that the soldiers breached regulations governing the use of weapons, according to a news report by Onet.

The publication of the report has put Tusk and Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz on the defensive, facing accusations of not supporting the troops handling the migration crisis.

In the election campaign, which ends at midnight tonight, Tusk touted the election as the choice between a “safe Poland in the EU” and Poland vulnerable to Russian provocations and, in a worst-case scenario, attack.

The Tusk government recently announced a plan to reinforce Poland’s borders with Belarus and Russia for PLN10bn (€2.4bn) over the next few years. Poland and other eastern EU members are concerned that if Russia prevails in Ukraine, it might target them next.

A no-go zone is also expected to kick in along the Polish-Belarusian border’s most vulnerable section in the coming days.