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Poland wants to set up buffer zone on the eastern border

Poland repeatedly accuses Belarus and Russia of deliberately smuggling migrants to its border. Now the NATO country is reacting – and announcing that it will reactivate a restricted zone.

Poland has announced that it will rebuild a security zone with its eastern neighbor Belarus. “We have been advised to quickly restore the 200-meter buffer zone in this area,” said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Next week, the “protection zone” originally introduced by the previous national conservative government in 2021 is to be set up.

Irregular migration from Belarus

In recent weeks, migrants have increasingly attempted to cross the border from Belarus into Poland irregularly. According to the Polish border guard, this has resulted in several violent incidents. According to the agency, a Polish soldier was critically injured on Tuesday when a migrant attacked him with a knife through the border fence.

2.3 billion to strengthen the border

Poland wants to further strengthen its entire eastern border. In mid-May, the government in Warsaw announced investments equivalent to more than 2.3 billion euros. Tusk explained that this would protect the EU and NATO country against growing threats from its neighbours Russia and Belarus.

The “Shield East” program is the largest operation to strengthen Poland's eastern border and NATO's eastern flank since 1945, said Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz. It includes “fortifications, various types of barriers, but also state-of-the-art airspace surveillance systems in every parameter and at every altitude” on the border, which is also an external border of the EU. Poland is also prepared to increase the number of troops stationed at the border from the 5,500 soldiers currently stationed there.

“We have 700 kilometers of border to secure, 400 kilometers of which are with Belarus,” said Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk. Construction is set to begin this year.

Pressure against the West?

The situation on the border between Poland and Belarus has been tense since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Poland accuses Belarus, Russia's close ally, of deliberately directing migrants to the border and speaks of hybrid warfare in this context. The government in Minsk denies this.

The national conservative PiS government had already built a fence more than 180 kilometers long and 5.5 meters high on the border with Belarus to prevent irregular migration. After the fence was built, a previously established three-kilometer-wide exclusion zone along the border was lifted. The previous protective strip prohibited the public and aid workers from approaching the border.

Migrants continue to attempt to cross the EU's external border irregularly every day. Since the beginning of the year, the Polish border guard has already registered more than 15,000 such attempts.

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