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Polish security forces on standby against 'any Russian provocations': defence minister

20.07.2023 12:30
Polish security services are working around the clock to guard against "any Russian provocations," the country’s defence minister has said.
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.PAP/Marcin Obara

Mariusz Błaszczak made the statement in an interview with public broadcaster Polish Radio on Thursday.

The defence minister noted that Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) and prosecutors had recently dismantled "the biggest-ever" Russian spy network operating in the country.

Between March and July, authorities in Poland detained a total of 15 people on charges of carrying out espionage activities for Russia’s military-intelligence agency GRU.

Błaszczak told public broadcaster Polish Radio on Thursday: “It was a network of people that had been undoubtedly established by the Kremlin to conduct terrorist attacks to destabilise Poland.”

He added: “We are aware that attempts to resurrect the Russian empire are dangerous for Poland.”

The defence minister stated that “this action is directed against Poland’s freedom and  the Russian empire had always posed a threat to the independence of our homeland,” Polish state news agency PAP reported.

Asked if more such groups could be mounting a threat against Poland, Błaszczak said: “We are expecting Russian provocations, that’s why Poland’s security services are working round-the-clock.”

'I decided to redeploy military units from the west to the east of Poland'

Błaszczak said in the interview: “Yesterday we had a meeting of the Committee for National Security and Defence Affairs, which is chaired by me, and the security service chiefs were also present. We discussed threats.”

He added: “We must realise that the arrival in Belarus of several thousand mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group also represents a threat to our country. That’s why I have decided to redeploy military units from the west to the east of Poland.”

He revealed that the redeployed troops would now be stationed in the eastern city of Biała Podlaska and the northeastern town of Kolno.

Błaszczak declared: “The mission of these soldiers is to carry out exercises, to deter the aggressor, and to show Russia that the Polish border should not be crossed, that it doesn’t pay to attack Poland.”  

Wagner Group training with Belarusian army near Polish border: reports

Meanwhile, the Belarusian army was training together with Wagner fighters at the Brest military range near the Polish border, the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday, citing the defence ministry in Minsk.

The joint exercise, which features Belarusian special operations forces, is expected to last a week, the PAP news agency reported. 

Some 700 Wagner mercenaries had relocated to Belarus by Wednesday, when another Wagner convoy, comprising some 100 vehicles, entered the country, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency (HUR).

Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin visited the new Wagner base near Osipovichi, Belarus, on July 18-19, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on Wednesday night. 

Prigozhin handed the Wagner flag to the local Wagner commander, a man with a first name of Sergey and call sign “Pioneer” who will command Wagner troops in Belarus, the US think tank said.

Prigozhin also stated that “Wagner will embark on a new journey in Africa after regrouping in Belarus,” the ISW reported.

Meanwhile, Wagner Commander Dmitry Utkin said that “this is only the beginning of the biggest job that will be carried out soon.”

The possible relocation of Wagner fighters to Belarus was first reported by Russian independent media outlets in late June, the PAP news agency reported.

The Wagner mercenaries, numbering some 8,000 fighters, were expected to be stationed at a former military base near Osipovichi in the eastern Mogilev region.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.

Thursday is day 512 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters, ISW

Click on the audio player above to listen to a report by Radio Poland's Marcin Matuszewski.