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Polish soldier stabbed at the Belarus border dies of his injuries as pressure from migrants rises

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish soldier who was stabbed last month at the eastern border with Belarus has died, Poland’s military said Thursday. It said earlier the soldier was stabbed in the chest by a migrant who reached through the bars of the border barrier.

The soldier was hospitalized in serious condition in the town of Hajnowka. On Thursday he was taken to a military hospital in Warsaw but died there in the afternoon, the military said.

“A young soldier, Mateusz, gave his life in the defense of Poland’s border,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on the social platform X.

“The motherland and his compatriots will never forget about this sacrifice. I extend words of deepest sympathy to his family,” Tusk wrote.

The Polish foreign ministry on Thursday summoned the Belarusian charge d’affaires, demanding that Minsk authorities identify and hand over the soldier’s “murderer,” Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said.

The situation at the European Union’s eastern border is increasingly tense under pressure from thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, trying to force their way through a metal barrier that Poland put up in 2022 to seal the frontier. Latest figures from the Polish Border Guard say there have been some 17,000 attempts at illegally crossing the border this year.

Poland and the EU say many of the migrants are organized and aided by Russia and its ally Belarus to destabilize Europe. According to Polish officials, about 90% of the migrants at Poland’s border have Russian visas, which points to Russia’s role.

The pressure intensified this spring, ahead of key elections to the European Parliament. In-person voting began on Thursday, in the Netherlands, with the other 26 EU member states due to go to the polls by June 9.

“For the first time we are dealing with a situation when a neighboring country is supporting migrants in an evident way and these poor people are tools of that policy,” a spokesman for Poland’s Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press.

The border is patrolled by about 6,000 Polish army troops, some 2,200 border guards and a few hundred police. Recently, some other officers also required hospital treatment for knife and other wounds inflicted from behind the barrier.

Following the stabbing attack, the government vowed to further step up security at the border and areas of buffer zones, where only the guards can go, to facilitate their task.

Poland has been taking steps to warn and dissuade potential migrants from trying to go via Poland, through information and posters disseminated in North African, Middle East countries and Turkey. The efforts have been successful in reducing the flow, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Wronski.

But recently more migrants have been arriving from Central African countries like Somalia, Eritrea or Yemen, where Western countries have limited possibilities of reaching people with information about the non-passable border, Wronski said.

Government officials on Thursday demanded explanations after it emerged that three soldiers were handcuffed and detained by Polish military police in March for having fired warning shots when faced with an advancing group of migrants on the border with Belarus.

The soldiers had allegedly fired warning shots first into the air and then into the ground as they tried to stop an advancing migrant group on Polish territory. No one was injured.

Government officials say the detention was an excessive measure.

“This is a shocking case, considering the fact that our soldiers were recently repeatedly attacked by aggressors from the Belarus side,” said President Andrzej Duda, who is the supreme commander of Poland’s armed forces.

Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said the military police overreacted and demanded clarification from them and from the prosecutors who are investigating. Prosecutors said Thursday footage from the shooting did not show the soldiers being in a life-threatening situation.

“The soldiers at the border are carrying out a mission for the Polish state,” Kosiniak-Kamysz told a news conference Thursday.

“We are always on the side of the soldiers … of those who carry out their tasks at the border,” he said, adding that soldiers, in charge of protecting the border since 2022, have used weapons in emergency situations some 700 times.

Associated Press


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