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Ukraine war: Poland doubles border troops, Russia vows response to Western 'threats', drone attacks

FILE - Ukrainian soldiers fire salvoes during the funeral of Roman in Bila Tserkva, near Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.
FILE - Ukrainian soldiers fire salvoes during the funeral of Roman in Bila Tserkva, near Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. Copyright Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AFP
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All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

Poland to double troops number at border with Belarus

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The Polish government announced on Wednesday it is planning to deploy an additional 2,000 troops to its border with Belarus, twice the number the Border Guard agency had requested.

In an interview with state news agency PAP, a deputy interior minister, Maciej Wasik announced the decision, accusing Minsk of organising illegal migration. 

However, the fallout from Russia's war against Ukraine has brought other concerns, including the presence of Russia-linked Wagner group mercenaries in Belarus this summer after their short-lived mutiny in Russia.

Earlier this week Belarus also began military exercises near its border with Poland and Lithuania, with two Belarussian helicopters flying briefly into Polish airspace recently. 

Warsaw called this a deliberate provocation, though some have argued the current government is leveraging security concerns ahead of upcoming elections. 

Amid soaring political tensions in 2020, large numbers of migrants from the Middle East and Africa were helped to the border by Minsk, which organised flights and visas - something Warsaw considered to be a form of “hybrid warfare."

Poland has mostly pushed them back into Belarus, creating a situation likened to ping pong. 

Russia will respond 'adequately' to Western threats on its borders

Threats from Western countries on Russia's borders "require a rapid and adequate response", the Russian defence minister said on Wednesday, citing their support for Ukraine and the accession of Sweden and Finland into NATO. 

Meeting senior military officials, Sergei Shoigu detailed at length the "threats" to Russia, which he said have "multiplied" in the west and northwest in recent years. 

One threat Shoigu mentioned was the "indirect war" waged by the West against Russia, "by providing unprecedented support to the puppet regime in Kyiv".

"The West's willingness to invest a significant part of its resources in Ukraine to turn the situation around on the battlefield creates serious risks of escalating the conflict," he added. 

The stanch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin also claimed Finland's membership of NATO and Sweden's bid to join were "a serious factor of destabilisation", especially through doubling the border between the US-led alliance and Russia. 

The last risk he noted was the "militarisation of Poland, which has become the main instrument of the United State's anti-Russian policy". 

Shoigu accused Poland of wanting to recover territory in western Ukraine, echoing a recurring but unsubstantiated claim by Moscow. 

Russia 'foils' Ukrainian drone attack

Russian air defences shot down two Ukrainian drones heading towards Moscow, Russian authorities said early Wednesday. 

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"Above the territory of the Moscow region, an attempted 'Kyiv-led' attack using unmanned aerial vehicles was foiled," the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram.

There were no fatalities or damage, the ministry added.

Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian soil have multiplied in recent weeks, often targeting Moscow and the annexed Crimean peninsula.

Berlin offers Poland Patriot anti-missile systems

Germany said on Tuesday it had offered to extend the deployment of its Patriot missile defence systems in Poland, likely until the end of the year.

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Berlin deployed three of the surface-to-air missile systems to eastern Poland in January after a Polish village was hit in late 2022 by an explosion, believed to be from a stray Ukrainian defensive missile. 

This deployment was originally scheduled to last a maximum of six months. But the German Defense Ministry said it had offered Warsaw to keep these Patriot batteries "during the summer, and probably until the end of the year".

However, it indicated there were no plans to extend beyond 2023.

Poland's defence minister initially rejected the German offer, asking Berlin to send them to Ukraine instead to fight the Russian invasion, then agreed.

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Germany, a major arms supplier to Kyiv, also sent a Patriot system to Ukraine.

'Double tap': Ukraine accuses Russia of targeting rescue workers

Ukrainian officials on Tuesday accused the Kremlin of deliberately attacking rescue workers by hitting residential buildings with two consecutive missiles — the first one to draw crews to the scene and the second one to wound or kill them.

Monday evening's strikes in the eastern city of Pokrovsk killed nine people and wounded more than 80 others, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address. 

One of those killed was an emergency official, according to Ukrainian authorities. Most of the wounded were police officers, emergency workers and soldiers who rushed to assist residents.

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Since the start of the war, Russia has used artillery and missiles to hit targets and then struck the exact same spot around 30 minutes later, often hitting emergency teams responding to the first blast. 

The tactic is called a “double tap” in military jargon. Russians used the same method in Syria’s civil war.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence claimed it hit a Ukrainian army command post in Pokrovsk. 

Neither side’s claims could be independently verified.

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