Polish officials said Wednesday that Warsaw will send an additional 2,000 troops to reinforce its border with Belarus as tensions between the two neighbors continue to rise.
Maciej Wasik, a Polish deputy interior minister, said the deployment was double what the border guard requested. One purpose of the deployment is to stem the tide of migrants crossing the border, which Warsaw blames on Minsk.
“If we had real border guards on the other side, and not smuggling services, these crossings would not exist at all,” Wasik said.
Poland has been beefing up its border since Wagner fighters traveled to Belarus following the short-lived mutiny against the Russian military establishment launched by the mercenary group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Polish officials estimate there are 4,000 Wagner members in Belarus. Last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claimed the Russian mercenaries were sent to Belarus to “destabilize” NATO’s eastern flank and warned they could be planning “provocations.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has played into the Polish fears by claiming that Wagner fighters said they wanted to go to Poland. Wagner members also recently conducted drills near the Polish border.
The Polish-Belarusian border has become a potential flashpoint for a conflict between NATO and Russia as Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned he would treat an attack on Belarus as an attack on Russia.