Polish military loses missile fuse on flight near Belarus border, asks public to report sightings

Poland’s armed forces have revealed that they lost a missile fuse during a patrol flight this week near the border with Belarus. They have been looking for the device since Tuesday and have asked members of the public to contact the nearest military unit or police if they come across it.

The Polish-Belarusian border has seen growing tension in recent weeks amid the arrival of Wagner Group mercenaries in Belarus, the incursion by Belarusian helicopters into Polish airspace, and a rise in the number of migrants and asylums seekers attempting to cross with the help of the Belarusian authorities.

In a statement issued today, the general command of Poland’s armed forces announced that, “on Tuesday, one of the helicopters carrying out a patrol in the border area was found to be missing a fuse in one of its missiles”.

Informujemy, że przy granicy wschodniej wojsko prowadzi działania mające na celu zapewnienie bezpieczeństwa. We wtorek po zakończeniu lotów bojowych w jednym ze śmigłowców realizujących patrol stwierdzono brak zapalnika w jednym z pocisków.
szczegóły: https://t.co/wcRIxsmlln

— Dowództwo Generalne (@DGeneralneRSZ) August 10, 2023

“As the search for the device has so far been unsuccessful, we would like to inform you that the fuse has built-in safety features and does not pose a threat,” they added. “Nevertheless, in the event of contact with it, please mark the place where it was found and notify the nearest military unit or the police.”

The flight was carried out along the border and did not take place over residential areas, the military said, adding that they would continue to search for the device. The release also noted that cases of lost pieces of equipment can occur during military operations, pointing to examples in Afghanistan, among others.

Later, the military published a photo of the fuse, which resembles a metal cone with a maroon tip. According to broadcaster Polsat, the device was part of the equipment of an Mi-24 helicopter belonging to the 1st Aviation Brigade.

Tak wygląda utracony zapalnik.
PRZYPOMINAMY: w przypadku kontaktu z nim prosimy o oznaczenie miejsca jego odnalezienia i powiadomienie najbliższej jednostki wojskowej lub Policji.
Zapalnik nie jest niebezpieczny i posiada zabezpieczenie. pic.twitter.com/2MqXJzb3D3

— Dowództwo Generalne (@DGeneralneRSZ) August 10, 2023

Some opposition figures criticised the loss of the fuse and noted it follows other embarrassments for the military, including the fact that a missile from Russia entered Polish airspace in December and was not found until April.

“The military loses the fuse from a missile. It does not see missiles that fly over Poland because air defence is practically in its infancy. What is happening to our uniformed services?” said Wanda Nowicka, an MP from The Left (Lewica), the second-largest opposition group in parliament..

“What more needs to happen for [defence minister Mariusz] Błaszczak to lose his position?” asked Waldemar Sługocki, an MP and former deputy minister from Civic Platform (PO), the largest opposition party.

A missile, reportedly Russian, landed in Poland in December but remained unfound until being discovered in April, reportedly by a member of the public.

The opposition has called for the defence minister to be sacked, but he blames a top general https://t.co/BaUECtvBa8

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 12, 2023

The Polish authorities announced last week that the number of troops at the border with Belarus will be increased and helicopters will be used to patrol the area, after two Belarusian helicopters entered Polish airspace.

Yesterday, the deputy interior minister announced that Poland would send an additional 2,000 soldiers to the border to help the border guard deal with a growing number of migrants attempting to cross.

Today, defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced that a total of 10,000 Polish soldiers will be stationed in the region bordering Belarus, of which 4,000 will directly support the border guard and 6,000 will be in reserve.

“The violation of Polish space by Belarusian helicopters cannot be downplayed because…everything that happens in Belarus is coordinated with Russia’s actions,” he said in an interview with Polskie Radio.

Two Belarusian helicopters yesterday entered Polish airspace, says Poland’s government, which condemned the “dangerous” incident.

Minsk denies the claims, but eyewitness accounts have also confirmed that the aircraft crossed the border https://t.co/1g7ICzVxIj

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 2, 2023

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Main image credit: Rob Schleiffert / flickr.com (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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