Polish Territorials begin ‘Osłona-21’ exercises in response to migration crisis

“On Friday, selected brigades of the Territorial Defense Forces (WOT) started the ‘Osłona-21’ exercises cycle. The exercises will be conducted until the end of the year in the border zone with Belarus,” Col. Marek Pietrzak, WOT’s spokesman, reported.

Mr Pietrzak explained they are of defensive nature and “are a response to the changing security situation in the vicinity of Poland and the challenges faced by the WOT in this respect.”

‘Osłona-21’ are battalion-level exercises. In the first stage, the alert cycle of soldiers will be checked. Then they will perfect the elements of tactical operations.

The main tasks carried out will include the preparation of localities for defence, patrolling, protection of critical infrastructure, image reconnaissance with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, search for and isolation of subversive and reconnaissance groups, protection of localities and development of the ability to perform irregular activities.

As part of the exercises, WOT soldiers will cooperate with local governments and other services, such as the Border Guard, Police and Fire Brigades.

As emphasised by Col. Pietrzak, the main goal of the ‘Osłona-21’ is “to develop the resilience and defence potential of local communities and to check the adopted organisational and training solutions in terms of the readiness of WOT brigades to carry out tasks as intended.”

“The exercises are also supposed to strengthen the resilience of local communities in the border region to a hybrid crisis,” he added, pointing out that it is a response to contemporary threats and the situation on the eastern border of the country.

Since the spring, the number of attempts to illegally cross the Belarusian border with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland by migrants from the Middle East, Africa and other regions has increased sharply. Poland and the EU Member States emphasise that this is the result of deliberate actions by the Belarusian regime in response to the sanctions imposed on the country. Since the beginning of the year, the Polish Border Guard has recorded about 23,000 attempts to illegally cross the country's border with Belarus. A state of emergency has been in force in the border areas since September 2.