“The idea of absorbing Ukraine is still alive. has not disappeared”. When Vladimir Putin spoke these words last November, he was not referring to the very large-scale offensive launched against the neighboring country in February and which has turned into a war that has lasted 17 months. The Russian president was actually speaking, without providing evidence or witnesses, of the supposed intention of Poland to seize Ukrainian territories.
Over time, Putin has been repeating and feeding this idea with every step Warsaw has taken, which since the start of the Russian invasion has emerged as a key piece in the european eastern flank and from NATO. The country, which borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and Belarus -as well as Ukraine-, has not only rearmed itself to the teeth and has shielded its borders, but has also become one of the main centers of the Atlantic Alliance’s deterrence operations.
And that, for the head of the Kremlin, is the perfect excuse. Not just to insist that Poland wants to annex land that, according to its twisted revisionist logic, belongs to Russia; but to continue projecting his warmongering rhetoric.
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This same Friday, during a meeting with his Security Council broadcast on television, Putin accused the Polish leaders of wanting to form “a kind of coalition” with Lithuania and “interfering directly in the conflict” in order to recover “historical territories” from western Ukraine. “The perspective is clear. If the Poles enter, for example in Lviv or in other territories of Ukraine, they will stay. By the way, it will be forever,” he said.
“The western part of present-day Poland It’s a gift from Stalin to the Poles. Our friends in Warsaw seem to have forgotten it, we will remind them”, he added in statements collected by Reuters. His threats, however, have not ended there. The Russian president has also reiterated that Warsaw has “territorial yearnings” in the former Soviet Union. Specific, in Belarus.
In this sense, Putin has warned that “any attack” against the country that his friend and ally Alexander Lukashenko has ruled with an iron fist for almost three decades will be considered a direct aggression against the Russian Federation. “We will respond with all the means at our disposal,” warned the leader of Russia, a power that has one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world.
With this new tirade, Putin was trying to alert the Polish government, which on Wednesday decided to deploy two new military units on its eastern flank. An area that already reinforced at the beginning of the month with more than 1,000 troops after the mercenaries of the Wagner Group moved to Minsk as part of the agreement reached with the Kremlin, which promised them pardon for the failed mutiny of their boss, Eugeni Prigozhin, if they went into exile or joined the Russian army.
[¿El fin de la dictadura o el inicio de otra? Escenarios que se abren cuando Lukashenko ya no esté]
Wagner in Belarus
Thus, given the threat posed by the presence of fighters from this Russian organization in the neighboring country, Poland has decided to seal (even more) its borders as a preventive measure. Especially since last week the Belarusian Ministry of Defense reported that soldiers from the Wagner Group were conducting joint training exercises with the Belarusian army. in a military camp in Bresta region in the south-west located just 50 kilometers from the Polish border.
VIDEOS | Wagner Group mercenaries start training Belarusian troops. pic.twitter.com/At2Q6A75EN
– EFE News (@EFEnoticias) July 14, 2023
Previously, the Belarusian authorities already warned that Wagner’s instructors had begun training recruits, but in a camp near the city of Osipovichi, 230 kilometers from the Ukrainian borderas collected efe.
Exactly how many of these paid soldiers are in Belarus is unknown today. As stated in a Telegram channel by a member of the council of commanders of the militia itself who calls himself “Marx”, there are 10,000 men who have already left or are going to Belarus. However, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski estimates that there could be about 8,000 Russians. “dangerous, well trained and determined” to attack.
The tension in this border area is not new. In autumn 2021, Poland started to build a wall about 2.5 meters high and 3 meters wide after accusing Putin of being behind the wave of migrants who tried to cross illegally into the European Union from Belarus. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fear of another “hybrid attack” led the Polish authorities to build in record time a provisional barrier along the borders with kaliningrad.