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Belarus-Poland Aerial Dispute: Claims, Counterclaims, and Tensions

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Mahnoor Jehangir
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Belarus-Poland Aerial Dispute: Claims, Counterclaims, and Tensions


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Alleged Airspace Violation Sparks Diplomatic Tension

The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently lodged a firm protest with the temporary charge d'affaires of Poland in Belarus. The protest was sparked by an incident involving an alleged violation of Belarusian airspace by a Polish military helicopter. The Belarusian State Border Commission claimed that the Polish Mi-24 military helicopter crossed the border at an extremely low altitude, flew up to 1,200 meters into Belarusian territory, and then turned back.

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Poland Denies Accusations of Airspace Violation

In response to these allegations, a Polish military official in Warsaw denied the occurrence of the incursion. Lieutenant Colonel Jacek Goryszewski, a spokesperson for the Polish military operational command, stated categorically that no Polish helicopter had crossed into Belarusian airspace. He further emphasized the accuracy of their radar systems in detecting any such crossings.

Polish-Belarus Relations in Turbulence

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The already strained relations between Poland and Belarus have worsened in the wake of this incident. Poland, along with Latvia and Lithuania, has suggested that they could close their borders if the situation deteriorates further. The allegations of airspace violation come amid accusations by Russian President Vladimir Putin of NATO member Poland harboring territorial ambitions in Belarus.

Belarusian Helicopters in Polish Airspace: A Disputed Claim

Complicating the matter further, the Polish government has announced that two Belarusian military helicopters violated Polish airspace, a claim that Minsk vehemently denies. Local eyewitness accounts and photographs posted on social media platforms appear to confirm the Polish government's claims. However, the operational command of Poland's armed forces initially issued a statement denying any violation of Polish airspace, stating that the helicopters were conducting patrols on the Belarusian side of the border.

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(Read Also: Russia Amends Fuel Export Ban, Excludes Some Products Amid Global Concerns)

Increasing Military Presence and Escalation of Tensions

In response to the escalating tensions, the Polish defense minister has ordered an increase in the number of soldiers at the border and allocated additional forces and resources, including combat helicopters. NATO has also been informed of the alleged airspace violations. Moreover, the charge d'affaires of Belarus in Poland has been summoned to clarify the incident, which is perceived as another element of escalating tension on the Polish-Belarusian border.

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Responses from Belarus and the United States

Belarus's defense ministry dismissed Poland's claims as "baseless rumors" and insisted that there were no violations of the airspace. The ministry suggested that Poland had changed its narrative after consulting with their "overseas masters," referring to the NATO allies. Meanwhile, the US defense department's press secretary redirected questions about the alleged airspace violation to the Polish defense ministry, affirming the US's commitment to ensuring NATO's safety.

The Underlying Issue: Migrant Crisis and Security Concerns

Tensions at Poland's border with Belarus have been high since mid-2021 when the Belarusian authorities began to engineer a crisis that has seen thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, attempt to cross into the European Union. These tensions were exacerbated following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the arrival of mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group in Belarus. In response to the escalating tensions, countries at NATO's eastern flank began reinforcing their eastern borders and limiting the number of border crossings.

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