Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Poland of having territorial ambitions in Ukraine and Belarus and warned that any aggression against Russia’s allies would be met with a harsh response.
Speaking at a meeting of his security council on Friday, Putin claimed that Poland was planning to use a joint military unit with Lithuania to carry out operations in western Ukraine, and ultimately to occupy parts of the country that historically belonged to Poland.
He also alleged that Poland was dreaming of annexing lands in Belarus, which is part of a loose union state with Russia. He said that any attack on Belarus would be considered an attack on Russia itself and that Moscow would use “all means at its disposal” to defend its neighbor.
“It is well known that they also dream of the Belarusian lands,” Putin said, without providing any evidence. “Unleashing aggression against Belarus will mean aggression against the Russian Federation. We will respond to this with all the means at our disposal.”
Putin’s remarks came amid growing tensions between Russia and Poland over the presence of Russian paramilitary fighters from the Wagner group in Belarus.
Poland, a NATO member and one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies in its fight against Russia’s invasion, has expressed alarm over the Wagner group’s activities and moved additional troops to its eastern border. Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, said on Friday that the training of Belarusian forces by Wagner was “undoubtedly a provocation” and that Poland was ready to defend its territory and interests.
Poland also denied having any territorial claims on Ukraine or Belarus and dismissed Putin’s accusations as lies and historical revisionism.
The spat between Russia and Poland adds to the already high tensions in the region, where Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and threatened to invade if Kyiv does not accept its demands for autonomy for the Russian-speaking regions in the east.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of seeking to destabilize and dismember the country, and have vowed to support its sovereignty and territorial integrity.