KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine will deploy another 8,500 troops and police officers, and 15 helicopters, to guard its border with Belarus, aiming to prevent possible attempts by migrants to breach the frontier, the Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday.
The European Union has accused Belarus of encouraging migrants to come to its territory then pushing thousands of them to cross into Poland and other neighbouring EU states in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Minsk.
While not an EU member, Ukraine is wary of becoming another front in the migrant crisis.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said the new forces would include 3,000 border guard servicemen, 3,500 servicemen of the National Guard and 2,000 police officers.
“Aviation (from) the interior ministry will also be on duty, in particular 15 helicopters, which will ensure mobility and, if necessary, will transfer our forces to the border,” he said.
Monastyrskiy said earlier on Thursday that Ukrainian border guards, police and the national guard would hold drills on the border with Belarus.
“In order to counter the potential crisis with migrants, we will involve all five structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs without exception,” the minister was quoted as saying in the statement.
Monastyrskiy said the latest actions would deter migrants from entering Ukraine, but the former Soviet republic needed to radically re-equip its border with the neighboring Russia and Belarus in order to avoid similar problems in the future.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alex Richardson)