NATO member states in northeastern Europe have bolstered their military forces on their mutual borders with neighboring Belarus.
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — which had already been on alert due to the escalation of tensions amid the war in Ukraine and the deployment of Russian Wagner paramilitary troops to Belarus– beefed up their military forces on the mutual border with the ex-Soviet state.
Poland’s Defense Ministry claimed two Belarusian helicopters allegedly violated the Polish airspace during training exercises on Tuesday, which the Belarusian Defense Ministry denied and dismissed as “far-fetched.”
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 Polish Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Warsaw informed the US-led NATO forces of the incident, which allegedly took place south of the Suwalki gap, a 96km line that is strategically significant to both the Washington-allied and Moscow-allied sides.
Suwalki 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.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last week that Wagner forces had headed towards the Suwalki corridor 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.
Eventually, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak ordered the country’s military to deploy more troops and combat helicopters be deployed along the border.
However, the Belarusian Defense Ministry strongly denied any violation of the airspace of its neighboring country with its helicopters, saying the US-led NATO forces made up the false claim as a pretext to expand their military presence on their eastern borders.