On Friday, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak issued a statement confirming that the two NATO member states would work together in an effort to prevent migrants from crossing over.
“Reconnaissance has begun ahead of the support from British engineering troops,” he wrote on Twitter. “Our soldiers will co-operate in strengthening the fence on the Polish-Belarusian border.”
The news comes as tensions fray on the shared frontier, with Poland deploying thousands of border guards, police officers, and soldiers to in recent days to turn back crowds of would-be asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East. Authorities deployed tear gas and used riot shields to prevent them from making it across the demarcation line.
Just hours earlier, Russia confirmed it had sent a contingent of paratroopers to Belarus, air-dropping them into the country as part of wargames near the city of Grodno, close to the border with Poland. On Thursday, Moscow confirmed it had dispatched nuclear-capable supersonic bombers to Belarusian airspace as part of a long-range training mission.
The EU has accused Belarus of laying on flights from troubled nations like Iraq, Syria, and Iran, encouraging migrants to attempt a new route into Western Europe. Once in the country, Brussels claims, they are transported to the border and prevented from turning back. The EU is now reportedly considering a package of sanctions in response.
Minsk denies that the rise in attempted crossings is part of a “hybrid war” designed to put pressure on the bloc over sanctions, insisting instead that it is the result of Western intervention in the Middle East. According to the country’s veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko, authorities are simply no longer prepared to prevent the migrants entering Poland. Several people are understood to have died while sleeping rough in cold conditions, hoping to reach the EU.
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