Poland faces a “real threat” on the border with Belarus due to migration and a military exercise scheduled for later in September, according to a government spokesperson.
Zapad 2021, or West 2021, is a large-scale joint exercise between Russia and Belarus. It will involve thousands of military personnel carrying out exercises on Russian and Belarusian training grounds.
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The Belarusian defense ministry said military personnel from Kazakhstan will also participate, as well as tanks, artillery and planes. The ministry said the training exercises will be based on scenarios in which “international tensions escalate to a level which may destabilize the situation in the region and provoke aggression against the State of the Union. [of Russia and Belarus]. “
Poland fears that “something will happen” during the exercise on the EU’s neighboring borders. Government spokesman Piotr Muller told Polish media: “It is a way to test the defense capabilities of neighboring countries.”
It is understood that Belarus will receive a large shipment of military equipment from Russia, including helicopters and other planes.
Earlier this year, Ukraine described Zapad 2021 as a threat to its own security and that of NATO. In response, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said the exercise posed no threat “to the European community as a whole, not to neighboring countries.”
The concerns come as Polish border guards reported 3,500 people attempted to enter Poland from Belarus in August. Polish authorities say 2,500 people were arrested by guards and around 1,000 were arrested. By comparison, authorities say there was no illegal crossing on the same border in August 2020.
Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have accused Belarus of driving migrants to their borders in an attempt to destabilize the EU, all reporting a spike in crossing attempts over the summer. Belarus blamed the border issues on the EU and previously said the migrants would not be detained.
There are currently 32 people stranded in the no man’s land between Poland and Belarus, as the Polish military continues to build a barbed wire fence along the border. A group of migrants is also stranded at the Latvian border.
Poland is expected to announce a state of emergency along the border with Belarus by the end of the week to control movements in the region. The state of emergency has not been applied in the country since the 1980s and is said to last 30 days, affecting an area about 3 km from the border, comprising 183 towns.