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Polish defence minister, US counterpart discuss security amid tensions with Belarus

05.08.2023 14:00
Poland's Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak has said he has spoken on the phone with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin to discuss Russia's war in Ukraine and the security of the eastern flank of NATO amid tensions with Moscow's ally Belarus.
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz BłaszczakPhoto: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

Błaszczak said in a social media post that he and Austin on Friday talked about "issues related to the security of Poland and NATO's eastern flank, including in the context of recent hybrid attacks on Poland."

"Our commitments and tasks as allies are clear - we look after our security together," Błaszczak said on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

Mutual 'unwavering support for Ukraine': Austin

Meanwhile, Austin tweeted that he and Błaszczak "reaffirmed our mutual security commitments as strong NATO Allies and our unwavering support for Ukraine."

'US support for Poland’s response' to airspace intrusion

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement that Austin "emphasized U.S. support for Poland’s response to the August 1 incursion into Polish airspace by Belarusian aircraft" when he spoke with Błaszczak by phone on Friday.

"The leaders also discussed the Wagner Group’s new presence in Belarus and mutually committed to continue monitoring the situation closely," the statement added.

Ryder also said in his statement that Austin thanked Błaszczak "for Poland’s significant efforts to support Ukraine" and "the leaders reaffirmed the importance of continued, robust security assistance to Ukrainian people.

Poland calls on Belarus to 'cease all provocations' at shared border

Poland on Friday called on its eastern neighbour Belarus to "cease all provocations" at the shared border after it said two Belarusian military helicopters breached Polish airspace earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the Polish and Lithuanian interior ministers on Friday discussed plans for a possible closure of all border crossings with Belarus in response to "emerging threats" from that country and potential "future provocations at the border," according to a statement by the Polish government.

Poland this week decided to move additional troops and combat helicopters to the Belarusian border, following an incident in which two Belarusian helicopters crossed into Polish airspace during an air exercise in the area, according to officials.

The Polish defence minister said on Thursday that Poland was prepared and ready to ensure the security of NATO's eastern flank in response to the deployment of Russian mercenary troops in Belarus.

Earlier on Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda met in the northeastern Polish city of Suwałki, near Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad, to discuss border security amid Russia's war in Ukraine and the movement of Russian mercenaries in Belarus.

The Polish prime minister told reporters on Thursday that Russia and Belarus were "stepping up their numerous provocations in order to destabilise the border of NATO's eastern flank."

The Polish prime minister said at the end of last month that Poland was guarding its border with Belarus "with full determination" against a threat from Wagner Group mercenaries stationed there.

Morawiecki said at the time that more than 100 Wagner fighters had moved to the Suwałki Corridor area on the Polish-Lithuanian border, which separates the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea from Belarus.

Up to 5,000 Wagner fighters stationed in Belarus: official

Polish Deputy Interior Minister Błażej Poboży told public broadcaster Polish Radio on Friday that the latest estimates put the number of Wagner Group fighters stationed in Belarus at around 5,000.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński said in an interview with US broadcaster CNN on Friday that "the threat is very real" from Belarus, arguing that Wagner Group soldiers have made attempts to infiltrate Polish territory.

Jabłoński told CNN that the Polish government was weighing whether to close the border with Belarus, a close Russian ally.

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

Saturday is day 528 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAPdefense.gov