Poland finds an object, possibly an observation balloon, from Belarus in its airspace


WARSAW, Poland—The military conducted an air and ground search on Saturday after an object believed to be an observation balloon from Belarus entered Polish airspace and flew over the country for hours before disappearing from radar.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has linked the object that entered Polish airspace and the previous object to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, on Poland’s eastern border. Russia’s ally Belarus is also located on Poland’s northeastern border.

“War has never been so close, never been so concrete,” Duda said during a visit to Ustka on the Baltic coast, where the Polish army was conducting large-scale exercises. rice field.

“It created a lot of different difficult situations, a lot of provocations, and we see that in the final hours.”

Duda said he planned to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday.

The defense ministry said it believed the object was an observation balloon and that it lost radar contact with it near the central Polish town of Lipin, 143 kilometers (89 miles) northwest of the capital Warsaw.

Armed Forces Operations Command spokeswoman Captain Eva Zwotnitska told television broadcaster TVN24 that a search had been launched in the area with the participation of helicopters, drones and Ground Forces of the Territorial Defense Forces.

The object was found near Bialowieza, near the Polish-Belarusian border, around 8:30 pm local time on Friday. Radar surveillance was carried out, but the object disappeared around 12:30 am on Saturday, Zwotnicka said in a telephone interview with a commercial TV station.

The development, reported on Saturday, follows two other known intrusions into Polish airspace since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In November, a missile landed in eastern Poland, killing two Polish men. Western officials said they believed Ukrainian air defense missiles were accidentally launched as Ukraine tried to repel a major Russian attack.

Polish military and political officials also face questions about another object that landed on Polish territory in December but was just spotted by a civilian riding a horse in the woods in April.

The issue calls into question the official response to Poland’s air defenses at a time when the war in Ukraine poses new risks.

President Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki were first informed of the airspace violation in December in late April.

The National Security Agency, which advises the president on security and defense issues, said Friday that its directors, Jacek Sieviera and Duda, were informed of the object on April 26, which the agency said was a “Russian-made cruise ship.” It could be a missile,” he said.

Officials said no traces of explosives were found at the site where the flying object was found.

Defense Minister Marius Błaszczak this week accused the military operations commander of not properly informing political leaders about the object. Military leaders protested, claiming they had properly performed their duties.

“Poland and the Polish Armed Forces have not experienced such an event in and on our territory for decades,” Duda said in his remarks on Saturday. He said Polish authorities were analyzing new procedures used for the first time, some of which were more effective than others.

But he said he could not go into details due to security concerns.

By Vanessa Gela