In the country’s first significant intervention, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said a ‘small team’ of armed forces personnel have been deployed to Poland ‘to address the ongoing situation at the Belarus border’.
It comes after Russia showed its support for its close ally by sending paratroopers to the Belarussian side of the border.
The Russian Defence Ministry said that its troops will parachute into Belarus’s Grodno region, which borders Poland as part of training exercises to ‘test the readiness of rapid response forces.’
It is understood that British troops involvement will initially be limited to providing engineering support.
The MoD’s statement said: ‘The UK and Poland have a long history of friendship and are Nato allies.
‘A small team of UK armed forces personnel have deployed following an agreement with the Polish government to explore how we can provide engineering support to address the ongoing situation at the Belarus border.’
Russia has strongly supported Belarus amid a tense stand-off this week as thousands of migrants and refugees, most from the Middle East, gathered on the Belarusian side of the border with Poland in the hope of crossing into western Europe.
The European Union has accused Belarus’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of encouraging illegal border crossings as a ‘hybrid attack’ to retaliate against EU sanctions on his government for its crackdown on domestic protests after his disputed 2020 re-election.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry accused Poland on Thursday of an ‘unprecedented’ military build-up on the border, saying migration control did not warrant the concentration of 15,000 troops backed by tanks, air defence assets and other weapons.
Meanwhile, Nato said it ‘strongly condemns’ the ‘irregular migration artificially created by Belarus’.
In a statement, Nato said: ‘The North Atlantic Council strongly condemns the continued instrumentalisation of irregular migration artificially created by Belarus as part of hybrid actions targeted against Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia for political purposes.
‘These callous actions endanger the lives of vulnerable people. Nato allies stand in solidarity with Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and other allied nations affected, and support measures, guided by fundamental values and applicable international law, taken by allies individually and collectively, in response to a situation that requires close co-ordination with key international partners.
‘We will remain vigilant against the risk of further escalation and provocation by Belarus at its borders with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, and will continue to monitor the implications for the security of the alliance. Nato allies call on Belarus to cease these actions, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to abide by international law.’