Putin tells Poland that any attack on Belarus is an attack on Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused NATO member Poland of having territorial ambitions in the former Soviet Union and said any attack on neighboring and close ally Belarus would be seen as an attack on Russia.

Putin said at a meeting of the UN Security Council in televised statements that Moscow will respond to any aggression against Belarus, which forms a loose “union state” with Russia, “by all means at our disposal.”

The Warsaw Security Committee decided, on Wednesday, to transfer military units to eastern Poland after members of the Russian mercenary force Wagner arrived in Belarus, the Warsaw state news agency quoted its secretary on Friday.

Poland denies any territorial ambitions in Belarus.

In his remarks, Putin also stated that the western part of Poland was a gift from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to the country and that Russia would remind the Poles of that.

In an apparent indication of this, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted Friday night that “Stalin was a war criminal, guilty of killing hundreds of thousands of Poles. The historical truth is not debatable.”

“The ambassador of Russia will be summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said.

On Thursday, Belarus said that Wagner’s mercenaries had begun training Belarusian special forces at a military field a few miles from the Polish border.

Russia develops tactical nuclear weapons

In recent weeks, Russia has begun deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus for the first time. The Kremlin said Putin would meet in Russia on Sunday with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, with whom he speaks regularly.

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German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Friday that Germany and NATO are ready to support Poland in defending the military alliance’s eastern flank.

Putin said there were press reports of plans to use Polish and Lithuanian units in operations in western Ukraine – parts of which once belonged to Poland – and eventually to occupy territory there.

“It is known that they also dream of Belarusian lands,” he said, without providing any evidence.

On Wednesday, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin appeared in a video welcoming his fighters to Belarus, telling them they would not take part in the war in Ukraine now, but ordering them to gather strength for Wagner’s operations in Africa as they trained the Belarusian army.

Prigozhin says Wagner, who led the conquest of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, is Russia’s most powerful fighting force. But his repeated clashes with the Moscow defense establishment prompted him to organize an armed insurrection four weeks ago.

The rebellion ended with an agreement that the Wagner fighters—many of whom were recruited from prison—could move to Belarus if they wished.

Reporting by Reuters. Written by Kevin Levy. Editing by William McLean and Grant McCall

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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