Russia to build up forces at western borders ‘in response to NATO threat’

Russia is planning to build up its forces at its western borders following Finland’s accession to NATO, the country’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has said.

The defence minister also noted Poland had already announced plans to strengthen its military, and that he expected significant NATO forces and weaponry to be deployed in Finland.

Finland’s inclusion has almost doubled the length of Russia’s land border with NATO.

“The collective West is waging a proxy war against Russia,” he said, according to his ministry, pointing to its “unprecedented support” for Ukraine.

Mr Shoigu described the entry of Finland into NATO and the future entry of Sweden “a serious destabilising factor”.

“These threats to Russia’s military security require a timely and adequate response. We will discuss the necessary measures to neutralise them at the meeting and make appropriate decisions,” he said.

The border crossing from Finland to Russia. Pic: AP

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It comes as Poland’s interior minister announced plans to send 2,000 troops to its boundary with Belarus following a request for reinforcements yesterday.

Concerns have been raised about potential military action after Minsk reportedly decided to conduct exercises in the strategic region known as the Suwalki Gap, which runs along the Polish-Lithuania border.

Lithuania and Latvia are also planning to bolster troop numbers at their borders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on 23 July. Pic: AP

Belarusian soldiers with Wagner mercenary fighters near the border city of Brest, Belarus. Pic: AP

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Belarusian officials confirmed a tank unit had been undergoing live fire tests at the Gozhsky firing range, just 15km from the city of Grodno, which lies on the Belarus-Poland border.

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Russian mercenary Wagner fighters have also reportedly been taking part in training drills near the border, and there has been a suggestion the group is establishing a “tent city” 24km away from the southern border with Ukraine.

Western analysts have suggested Wagner is no threat to Poland, with former commander of the Joint Forces Command, General Sir Richard Barrons telling Sky News there isn’t “any military capacity in Belarus that Poland is going to be worried about”.

Last week, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Poland should “thank” him for preventing Wagner troops from entering the country and “smashing up cities”.