Poland and the Baltics will completely close their borders with Belarus if a “critical incident” involving Wagner mercenaries occurs, the Polish interior minister said on Monday, amid rising tensions on NATO’s eastern flank.
Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, member countries of the European Union and NATO that share a border with Belarus, are increasingly concerned about border security since hundreds of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, hardened in a thousand battles, arrived in Belarus at the invitation of President Alexander Lukashenko.
Countries have also seen increase in recent months the number of immigrantsespecially from the Middle East and Africa, who are trying to cross the border and accuse Belarus of facilitating them, a claim that Minsk rejects.
“We demand from the Minsk authorities that the Wagner Group immediately leave the territory of Belarus and that illegal migrants immediately leave the border area and be returned to their countries of origin”said Mariusz Kaminski at a joint press conference with his Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian counterparts.
”If a critical incident occurs, regardless of whether it is on the Polish or Lithuanian border, we will retaliate immediately. All border crossings open until now will be closed, ”he declared.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is believed to have died in a plane crash last week, leaving the fate of the network of military and commercial operations he created for Russia in Europe, the Middle East and Africa hanging in the balance.
Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said there were two criteria that could lead to border closure: “First of all, an armed incident on the border of one of the countries. The incident would have to pose a serious threat to national security. The other criteria is a massive entry of immigrants across the border of one of the states.”.
The Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, warned that the Wagner Group is “a greater threat” after the death of its leader, Yevgeni Prigozhin, since “under the direct tutelage” of the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, it can undertake new destabilization actions.
Morawiecki referred to the death of Prigozhin, who lost his life when the plane in which he was flying from Moscow to Saint Petersburg crashed. “I won’t say if it was an accident or not,” he pointed out, assuming that “all Poles” can draw their own conclusions.
According to Morawiecki, who had already repeatedly warned of the risk posed by this transfer to Belarusian soil, now the supervision of Wagner falls “directly” to Putinreports the PAP agency. So, It can be “an instrument of provocation, blackmail and all kinds of acts of aggression” to destabilize countries that, like Poland, have a border with Russia or Belarus.
(with information from Reuters and EuropaPress)
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