98 Polish police officers have returned home after a lengthy mine clearance campaign in the neighboring country
Dozens of Polish law enforcement officers operated in Ukraine for months clearing mines, with the unit now reporting back home, Jacek Siewiera, the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, said on Wednesday.
In a Twitter post, Siewiera said that “for the last five months, a 98-person humanitarian contingent of Polish police [has been] demining in Ukraine pyro charges laid by Russian troops.”
The official claimed that the efforts of the officers, who have already returned to Poland and would receive awards from President Andrzej Duda, “have already saved the lives of hundreds of people.”
While Siewiera did not provide further details, the Wirtualna Polska newspaper offered some insight into this “secret mission.” It claimed to have known about it “for several months,” but had chosen not to report on it until now to keep the participants safe.
According to the outlet, the effort started after Ukraine asked for help from the ATLAS group, the EU’s special counter-terrorist force. At the time, Kiev wanted the bloc to dispatch pyrotechnicians to demine the areas left by Russian troops.
The paper noted that Ukraine lacked specialists for such work while NATO could not deploy its pioneers because Russia would consider it a provocation. The only option left was to deploy police pyrotechnicians, the outlet said.
However, according to the newspaper, of all the ATLAS members, only Poland answered Ukraine’s call, with other countries deeming such a mission too dangerous.
The campaign is said to have kicked off in October and was meant to last three months. In December, however, it was extended for another two, the report says. Both pyrotechnicians and paramedics could reportedly join the mission, with only volunteers being deployed to Ukraine.
During the operation, police officers removed a total of 2,000 dangerous items, with none of them suffering an injury, Wirtualna Polska says.
Last week, Polish media reported that Ukraine had approved the creation of a Polish volunteer unit, which is supposed to be used for reconnaissance and sabotage missions.
Russia has repeatedly accused the West of trying to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Moscow in Ukraine, claiming that foreign assistance to Kiev will only prolong the conflict. It has also blasted Western arms shipments to Ukraine, warning that the weapons “as well as foreign military personnel operating them are legitimate targets” for the Russian military.