Posted on June 7, 2024

Polish Soldiers Arrested by Military Police After Firing Warning Shots at Migrants on Belarusian Border

Grzegorz Adamczyk, Remix, June 6, 2024

Polish soldiers were recently detained by military police after they fired warning shots at migrants who were aggressively attempting to cross the Polish-Belarusian border. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz condemned the arrests, emphasizing that the actions of the soldiers were in response to a direct threat and that this afforded them legal protections.

The Ministry of National Defense (MON) reported that the charges against the soldiers include endangering human life and health, as well as exceeding their authority. Following the incident, the soldiers were suspended from duty.

Kosiniak-Kamysz expressed strong support for the detained soldiers in a statement on social media platform X, stating, “The detention of soldiers firing warning shots at attacking migrants is unacceptable. The actions of the military gendarmerie towards the detainees will be absolutely clarified. Soldiers safeguarding the security of the state must be ensured that legal procedures protect them. I will always stand on the side of the honor of Polish soldiers.”

The incident took place near Dubicze Cerkiewne, where, at the end of May, a soldier was severely wounded. According to liberal news outlet Onet, when migrants crossed the border and did not retreat despite warning shots, soldiers from the 1st Warsaw Armored Brigade defensively fired into the ground, inadvertently causing ricochets that hit a fence.

The situation reportedly calmed down only after the border guard intervened, who, instead of thanking the soldiers for repelling the migrants, notified Poland’s military gendarmerie.

The Onet news portal cites a soldier’s account, stating that three of his comrades were led away in handcuffs “like bandits,” with two subsequently facing legal proceedings; they were only released after their battalion colleagues funded a lawyer.

The MON has confirmed that while the soldiers are currently free, they face charges under articles of the criminal code related to endangering life and acting to the detriment of public or private interest, with potential penalties of up to three years in prison. The prosecutor has suspended the soldiers from official duties until June 27 and placed them under supervisory orders.

Social media has been inundated with comments regarding the Polish government’s recent actions. Former Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made a poignant appeal to those in power, stating, “Stop this madness, you are like arsonists setting fire to your own house.”

Former Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński criticized the operational reality of what he sarcastically referred to as Donald Tusk’s Shield-East, remarking: “This is what the Shield-East looks like in practice: the soldiers of the Polish Army are defending our border — and Bodnar’s prosecution office is charging them with criminal offenses! To say it’s a disgrace is an understatement. It is simply a shame. I understand, Prime Minister Tusk, will (Justice Minister) Adam Bodnar be dismissed first thing in the morning?”

The defense ministry has reiterated that commanders do not prohibit the use of firearms, noting that in May alone, over 700 warning shots were fired. The rules for firearm use are outlined in the law on direct coercion and the rules of engagement. Soldiers assigned to the border undergo specific training on these rules, simplified for border operations, and have access to guidance from experienced instructors and soldiers.