Great Britain is sending its military to the border between Poland and Belarus due to the aggravation of the migration crisis. British allies will “provide engineering support,” the United Kingdom Defense Ministry said.
Britain has sent troops to Poland to help secure the border of a NATO ally with Belarus as the migrant crisis that threatens to draw in major regional and international powers has worsened and thousands of people are on the border in frigid conditions.
According to the British newspaper The Independent , the Defense Ministry announced on Friday that it had sent a small group of military personnel to Poland “to settle the current situation on the border with Belarus.”
“Great Britain and Poland have a long-standing friendship and they are NATO allies,” the British Defense Ministry said. “A small group of UK military personnel was deployed following an agreement with the Polish government to explore how we can provide engineering support to address the current situation on the border with Belarus.”
Reportedly, we are talking about sending only 10 British troops.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak tweeted that British troops will help “reinforce the barriers” at the border.
The British statement an hour later was followed by confirmation that the RAF fighters took to the air on Friday to respond to two military planes from Russia – an ally of Belarus – approaching the “zone of interest of Great Britain”, writes the Independent.
The British Defense Ministry reported that an unknown number of fighters from Lossiemouth Air Force bases in Scotland and Coningsby Air Force bases in Lincolnshire, supported by a Voyager aircraft from Brize Norton AFB, intercepted two Russian strategic Tu-160 bombers.
Officials said the fighters were escorting the Russian aircraft away from the British zone of interest and that the bombers were not entering British airspace.
Friday’s events took place on yet another day of heightened tensions amid the crisis and growing humanitarian and diplomatic concerns, writes The Independent. European neighbors accused Minsk of using the migrant crisis as a weapon, and Poland warned that events could escalate into military conflict. Warsaw accused Russia of organizing border events, but Moscow dismissed these allegations. Germany called on Russia to try to stop the crisis.
On Friday, it became known that Belarusian and Russian paratroopers held joint exercises, two days after Russian planes patrolled the airspace of Belarus.
The EU said it is considering the possibility of introducing new sanctions against President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and his regime as early as next week. NATO said on Friday that the alliance will remain vigilant.
The White House also reacted with dismay to rising tensions. US Vice President Kamala Harris said on Friday that the US is “very concerned” about the events on the Polish-Belarusian border.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has said it will send more than 8,500 troops and police to the border with Belarus. Events on the Polish-Belarusian border are developing against the backdrop of continuing fears that the ongoing conflict between Kiev and Moscow may escalate, the Independent notes.
Also on Friday, Turkey announced that it would ban Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis from flying to Minsk airport by Turkish or Belarusian air carriers after negotiations between Warsaw and Ankara, NATO partners.
“In connection with the problem of illegal border crossing between the European Union and Belarus, it was decided that the citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen who want to travel to Belarus from the airports of Turkey will not be allowed to buy tickets and [board] until further notice,” the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority tweeted.
The role of Turkey in the Belarusian crisis is a subject of discussion in diplomatic and humanitarian circles, the Independent notes. European politicians and experts have accused Turkish President Erdogan of alliance with Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to undermine the EU.
Earlier this week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Turkey of allowing migrants into their country, a charge that Ankara denied.
It remains unclear whether the ban on flights to Minsk will put people in an end to the crisis. Observers noted that tickets for flights from Istanbul to Moscow began to sell out quickly after the ban came into force, suggesting that determined migrants could bypass the ban by traveling to Belarus via Russia.
Poland and Turkey are led by right-wing populists who disagree with the EU on transparency, human rights and the rule of law, writes The Independent. Earlier this year, Ankara signed a deal to sell advanced combat drones to Warsaw.
“A determined will to further develop our relationship, our strong allies and shared values that we share are the pillars of our strategic partnership,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote in the Polish daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna last month.