STOCK IMAGE: Three Polish soldiers guarding the border with Belarus were detained in March for endangering the lives of civilians and unauthorised use of weapons, new reporting has revealed. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)


Poland-Belarus border crisis deepens as wounded soldier dies

A Polish soldier stabbed in the ribs by an illegal migrant on the country's border with Belarus was pronounced dead on June 6 in a dark day for the Tusk government.


A Polish soldier stabbed in the ribs by an illegal migrant on the country’s border with Belarus was pronounced dead on June 6 in a dark day for the Tusk government.

The soldier was wounded in late May this year, reportedly stabbed by a migrant with a weapon attached to a tree branch in an incident that saw around 50 migrants try to forcibly enter Poland.

The news came shortly after information regarding the detention of three soldiers who had been guarding the border in March emerged in the media.

The soldiers were reportedly detained in prison after they fired warning shots while being confronted by migrants trying to cross into Poland.

In the wake of that, the three men were reportedly suspended from duty and held, only being freed after their fellow servicemen raised enough funds to arrange a legal defence.

Reports have prompted outrage in Poland, with politicians accusing the Donald Tusk-led Polish Government of criminalising the people trying to protect their own borders.

“The Polish State has an obligation to stand behind border defenders,” Law and Justice (PiS) politician and former defence minister Mariusz Błaszczak said, decrying the incident as an “absolute scandal”.

“Soldiers cannot be exposed to physical attacks from migrants on the one hand and to legal consequences from [the] prosecutor’s office on the other.”

Błaszczak’s successor in the defence minister role, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, appeared to agree, saying he had demanded an explanation from the prosecutors involved regarding the three soldiers detention, as well as from the military police.

“Soldiers guarding state security must be sure that legal procedures protect them,” wrote the minister, who is also leader of one of the parties that make up the Three Way alliance in coalition with Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO).

“I will always stand on the side of the honour of Polish soldiers”, asserted Kosiniak-Kamysz.

Some politicians are blaming the current government for the men’s incarceration.

News outlet reported that the trio may have fallen victim to the findings of a justice ministry report examining the actions of Polish soldiers and guards on the border, with the inquiry designed to prevent the mistreatment of would-be refugees.

It suggested the detention of the three soldiers may have been in part a result of the group’s deliberations, although the prosecution service denied the inquiry had anything to do with the arrests.

Błaszczak has rejected claims from Kosiniak-Kamysz that he only learned about the arrest of the soldiers on June 5, claiming the minister should have been receiving regular reports on the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border.

“Kosiniak-Kamysz must have known about the detention of the soldiers but the truth was hidden for about two months,” the PiS politician claimed.

Reacting to the news while on a visit to Normandy for the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he was convening a meeting of the National Security Council for 10 June to discuss the border security issue.

The former justice deputy minister in the previous PiS government, Sebastian Kaleta, said that the restraint shown by most soldiers in recent incidents of physical attacks by migrants may stem from the fact that “they are prohibited from defending themselves or because they are afraid of being prosecuted”.

The Polish Government in response to the rise in attempted border crossings by illegal migrants and attacks on Polish officers has promised to reintroduce an exclusion zone banning people from approaching the Polish side of the border.

The implementation of that has been delayed as a result of protests from local governments and businesses in the affected area.

The Tusk administration has made security regarding potential Russian and Belarusian aggression an issue in the current European Parliament elections. It claimed that the vast majority of illegal migrants attempting to cross the border were in possession of Russian visas and that the aggression was part of what it called Moscow’s hybrid warfare in Poland.

That is despite the fact that, when in opposition, Tusk’s party sided with pro-migrant NGOs and called for more humane treatment of illegal migrants.

It accused the then-ruling PiS being accused of politically “weaponising” illegal migration and of cruelty to migrants.