Warsaw: Poland has accused Belarus of violating its airspace, saying more troops will be deployed at the countries’ border.
According to authorities in Warsaw, two Belarusian helicopters allegedly violated the Polish airspace during training exercises Tuesday, CNN reported.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Polish Defence Ministry said Minsk had informed Warsaw about the exercise, but a border crossing took place in the eastern Bialowieza region at a “very low altitude, making detection by radar systems difficult”.
The border region is located south of the Suwalki gap — a thin strip of land between Poland and Lithuania which is strategically significant to NATO, the EU, Russia and Belarus.
It links the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad to Belarus and it is the only overland connection between the Baltic states and the rest of the EU.
Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak subsequently ordered that more troops and combat helicopters be deployed along the border, CNN quoted the Ministry statement as saying.
The Ministry added that Poland has informed NATO about the incident.
But the Belarusian Defence Ministry has vehemently denied and dismissed the allegation as “far-fetched”.
In a social media post, Wednesday, the Ministry said: “There were no violations of the airspace by the Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence Forces.
“The accusations are far-fetched and were made by the Polish military-political leadership to justify the build-up of forces and means near the Belarusian border.”
The incident comes amid reports that troops from the Wagner mercenary group were moving towards the Suwalki gap from Belarus, CNN reported.
Last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned that the mercenaries were heading towards Suwalki via Grodno, a city in western Belarus, in a situation that is “becoming even more dangerous” as Russian-allied forces attempt to increase their presence near the NATO border.
Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jablonski told local media that there could “unfortunately” be more provocations from Belarusian and Russian forces in the future.
Moscow used Belarusian territory to facilitate its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, strengthening ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart in Minsk Alexander Lukashenko.