Maciej Wąsik made the declaration in parliament on Thursday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
Maciej Wąsik. Photo: Polish Radio
'Hybrid attack from Belarus'
Answering a question from a group of MPs about the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border, Wąsik said that Poland had become "the target of a hybrid attack from Belarus, directed by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, but co-organised by Vladimir Putin’s Russia."
Wąsik said: “We are in no doubt that it was a cover operation of some sort, an operation aiming to destabilise Europe ahead of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”
He added that "the hybrid attack culminated last autumn."
By that point, the Polish government had concentrated some 2,000 border guards, several thousand policemen and around 15,000 soldiers on the Polish-Belarusian border “to protect it from illegal migration,” Wąsik told lawmakers.
In all, some 40,000 people tried to cross illegally into Poland from Belarus last year, according to Wąsik.
Wąsik said that "in the wake of the hybrid attack" the Polish government decided to build a steel wall along its border with Belarus.
The 187-kilometre barrier was completed in the summer, according to reports at the time.
Wąsik said that the number of attempted illegal border crossings into Poland dropped from 3,500 in August 2021 to less than 1,000 a year later, and from a peak of 17,500 in October last year to 1,820 so far this October.
'A massive decrease in illegal migration'
Wąsik told parliament: “We have seen a massive decrease in illegal migration."
He added: "Yes, it’s still there. It’s still being engineered by the Belarusian security services, but ... it’s part of an enormous migration that is advancing on Europe, and today we can see that the northern trail, which Lukashenko tried to organise together with Putin, through Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, has encountered resistance here.”
Electronic barrier to be ready by end of November
Wąsik told parliament that workers were "completing the construction of a perimeter wall" on the Polish-Belarusian border.
"It will be longer than the steel wall, because it will extend to areas where the physical barrier couldn’t be erected for technical reasons, and it will also run along rivers,” he said.
The 202-kilometre electronic barrier along the Belarus border is expected to cost around PLN 1.6 billion (EUR 340 million), the PAP news agency reported.
Wąsik told lawmakers that the first 35-kilometre stretch would be unveiled by the middle of next month and the remaining part “should be up and running by the end of November."
‘The most secure external border of the Schengen zone’
The Polish deputy interior minister said that there were still some 2,000 border guards deployed to the Belarus border, but the number of policemen had been reduced to some 200 and troops to 1,350.
Wasik told MPs: “The steel wall is working. It is functioning. Once the perimeter wall is fully activated, the border barrier will become fully operational.”
He declared: “The Polish-Belarusian border will be the most secure external border of the Schengen zone. We have no doubt about that.”
Friday is day 247 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source: PAP, tvp.info