Now Russia threatens POLAND: Putin claims to have ‘killed 80 Polish fighters’ in east Ukraine and removes flag from memorial to WW2 Poles killed by Soviet Union amid fresh tensions mount over Kaliningrad enclave

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Reported by: Daily Mail

The Suwalki Gap – named after the town of Suwalki that sits between the Russian territory of Kaliningrad and the Belarus border – is a strategic choke point that Poland has called on NATO to reinforce in order to strengthen Lithuanian security


 

  • Russia claimed a ‘precision strike’ wiped out 80 Polish fighters in the Donbas 
  • On same day Russia admitted taking down Polish flag from Katyn massacre site 
  • Poland has called on NATO to reinforce Suwalki Gap to support Lithuania 
  • Lithuania is enforcing a blockade on Kaliningrad that has infuriated Moscow 


Tensions between Russia and NATO member Poland have been cranking up to boiling point in recent days amid Russian claims that it has killed ‘up to 80 Polish mercenaries’ in missile strikes.

The reported losses come on the same day that Russia confirmed it has removed a Polish flag from a memorial commemorating the murder of thousands of Poles by the Soviet Union in 1940.

To the north, Moscow has been furious over Lithuania’s blocking of EU-sanctioned goods from reaching the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between the Baltic state and Poland.

This has prompted Poland to call on NATO to further bolster its security presence in the Suwalki Gap, the narrow corridor of territory that connects the three Baltic states to the rest of their NATO allies and separates Kaliningrad from Russian ally Belarus.

‘We are going to seek the reinforcement of this corridor… in our talks with our partners from NATO,’ Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference in Brussels after a European Union summit.

Kaliningrad and the Suwalki Gap, on Polish territory, would be ground zero for any military conflict between NATO and Russia, as Vladimir Putin would immediately move to cut the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia off from the rest of NATO and shore up the isolated exclave from inevitable NATO strikes.

This week Moscow warned of ‘very tough actions’ against Lithuania after deliveries of coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology were stopped passing through its territory on the way to Kaliningrad.

The Lithuanian chargé d’affaires in Moscow was told that unless cargo transit was resumed in the near future, Russia reserves the right to act to protect its national interests.

Such talk has prompted Poland to request additional NATO fortifications around the town of Suwalki in order to safeguard Lithuania’s security from Russian incursions.

Russian claims of wiping out 80 Polish fighters will only add to the tensions.

‘Up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armoured combat vehicles and eight Grad multiple rocket launchers were destroyed in precision strikes on the Megatex zinc factory in Konstantinovka’ in the Donetsk region, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement which could not be independently verified.

It is a common Russian tactic to accuse Western volunteers fighting within the Ukrainian armed forces of being paid mercenaries and thus exempt from the Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The irony not being lost on those in Ukraine that Russia employs genuine mercenaries of the Wagner Group, which it pays a far higher pay packet than its own

Poland fully endorsed Lithuania’s blockade of Russian materials to its Baltic exclave and it has been reported that Russian Railways has temporarily suspended some cargo transit from Belarus to Poland.

Russia is framing this as a routine disruption but the timing of it gives the appearance of a tit-for-tat retaliation.

And Estonia’s military said in a statement Tuesday that a Russian MI-8 helicopter entered the country’s airspace in southeastern Estonia in the Koidula area – not far from the Russian city of Pskov – without permission on Saturday evening and simulated missile attacks.

The helicopter was in Estonia’s airspace for almost two minutes, Estonia’s military said, adding that it hadn’t presented a flight plan, had its transponder switched off and failed to maintain radio contact with Estonian Air Navigation Services.

The alleged intrusion was one of multiple violations of Estonia’s airspace this year and comes less than a week before a scheduled NATO summit in Madrid.

And to escalate tensions between the two historical enemies even further, Russian authorities have removed a Polish flag from a memorial commemorating the murder of thousands of Poles by the Soviet Union.

Historians and visitors to the Katyn memorial in western Russia’s Smolensk region noted the flag’s disappearance on social media on Friday.

The mayor of Smolensk city confirmed the removal on Friday evening, publishing a photo showing the Russian flag flying alone at the memorial’s entrance.

‘There cannot be Polish flags on Russian monuments. Even less so after the frankly anti-Russian comments by Polish political leaders,’ Andrei Borisov said on social media platform VKontakte.

‘The culture ministry of the Russian Federation made the right decision by removing the Polish flag. Katyn is a Russian memorial.’

The Katyn memorial was erected in memory of the 25,000 Poles, mostly army officers deemed anti-communist, massacred by the Soviet Union’s political police in a forest near Smolensk in 1940 on the orders of Joseph Stalin.

The Soviet Union had long denied responsibility for the killings, accusing the Nazis of the crime, before admitting the truth in 1990.

The episode poisoned already hostile relations between Russia and Poland.

In 2010, a Smolensk-bound plane carrying the Polish president crashed on the way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, killing all its 96 passengers including most of the Polish government.

The investigation into the incident sparked a plethora of conspiracy theories and became another source of tension after the countries tried to improve their ties.


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