These are impressive images that Poland's Ministry of Defense has been spreading on Twitter in recent days: From the beach, rocket launchers fire projectiles at an imaginary target in the Baltic Sea. Since the beginning of May, 13,000 soldiers have been taking part in the "Anaconda-23" maneuver. Now, of all times, however, two "flying objects" have apparently entered Poland from Belarus.
Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, based in Warsaw.
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According to the army, fighter jets have risen to monitor the situation. Presumably, the aircraft came to Poland at night. One of them is said to have reached Danish airspace from the Baltic Sea coast. This is evident from statements by Polish government officials and local media reports; the authorities of Denmark did not initially comment on request on Sunday. Confusion with civilian aircraft seems to be out of the question: due to the war, all civilian air traffic between Poland, Belarus and Ukraine is suspended.
Poland's President Andrzej Duda had already said reassuringly on Saturday at a military training area on the Baltic Sea: "Our affairs are under control." He appealed to "act without emotions" now. Referring to enemy flying objects, he said that "the Polish army has not seen such events over our territory for decades." Presumably, he meant both the approximately six-meter-long Russian rocket discovered in a forest at the end of April and the new flying objects already registered on Friday. "I can't talk about the majority of recent events here because the majority are subject to secrecy," he said, appealing to maintain this secrecy. "We know who our potential opponent is. He shouldn't know and hear too much."
This was in line with the tactics of the authorities not to let their own population know too much in the event of incidents with the "enemy" – apparently Russia and its ally Belarus. This was also the case in November, when an apparently misguided defensive missile from Ukraine hit Poland, killing two people. After all, this time the Ministry of Defense reported early, on Saturday morning, with the core information: A flying object had entered from the direction of Belarus, "probably an observation balloon". Near the town of Rypin, northwest of Warsaw, the object had disappeared from the radar. A team of territorial defense is looking for the object.
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Soon, the often well-informed portal onet.pl reported that another object, also coming from Belarus, had appeared around the same period. State Secretary of the Interior Błażej Poboży confirmed to a television station that there had been a second object. It had been "escorted out of the territory of Poland, so to speak" on the radar screens. An officer, who remained anonymous, was quoted as saying that the object had entered Danish airspace, which begins near the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm. Defense Secretary Marcin Ociepa commented that he sees the incidents as "more of an element of provocation on the part of Belarus than an attempt to obtain intelligence information."
The timing for provocation would be very well chosen: not only is the "Anaconda-23" maneuver, the largest exercise of Poland and its allies this year, currently underway. Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak has just praised the effective defense of the country, which is to be underpinned on Monday with the arrival of some HIMARS missiles purchased in America. The balloon flights also come at a time when the dispute over the long-undiscovered Russian missile has reached its climax. After this, probably a Ch-55 cruise missile, was accidentally discovered in a wooded area near the city of Bydgoszcz in northern Poland on April 24, it came to light that it must have gone down there on December 16; The dispute rages over why the missile was first on the radar and then the search work was stopped anyway.
Last Thursday, Błaszczak found a culprit: the head of the army's "Operational Command," General Tomasz Piotrowski. He violated his duties and did not inform him in time, Błaszczak said. The general, who has been in office for five years and is currently at the site of "Anaconda-23", responded on Friday with a video message on his official channel. Without naming names, he appealed, visibly moved, to show "reason" and to avoid situations that "help the enemy and harm us". He believes that Poland as a state is "strong and just" and that citizens know "that we live in a democratic country". Błaszczak enjoys the confidence of his party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, but General Piotrowski also seems to have good cards; observers do not expect a quick dismissal, neither of the minister nor of the general.