By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Poland has warned that a growing presence of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner private military firm in Belarus is aimed at destabilizing NATO’s eastern flank amid the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, speaking after a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on August 3, said NATO allies must increase vigilance as the likelihood of provocations remains very high.
Morawiecki was speaking two days after two Belarusian military helicopters that were conducting training exercises near the border briefly violated Poland’s airspace.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry denied that its helicopters violated Polish airspace, accusing Warsaw of “fabrications.”
“We need to be aware that the number of provocations will rise,” Morawiecki said at a news briefing with Nauseda.
“The Wagner group is extremely dangerous and they are being moved to the eastern flank to destabilize it.”
Morawiecki and Nauseda met in the Polish border town of Suwalki, which sits on what is known as the Suwalki Corridor — the 80-kilometer stretch that is NATO’s only land connection with Baltic members Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
The Suwalki Corridor separates Moscow’s exclave of Kaliningrad from Belarus and is seen as a potential target for Russia in order to isolate the Baltic states in case of a conflict with NATO.
“Some people say the agreement reached at the NATO summit on Sweden’s future membership is changing the geopolitical situation, and the strategic importance of the Suwalki Corridor is diminishing,” Nauseda said, referring to last month’s summit of the military alliance that moved Sweden closer to joining the group.
“I certainly do not agree with this view and I believe that the Suwalki Corridor remains a potential target of provocation by both Russia and Belarus,” he said, adding that Wagner could have more than 4,000 fighters already in Belarus.