On October 28, the Belarusian state news agency Belta published a story with comments from President Alexander Lukashenko about migration at the Polish-Belarusian border.
Lukashenko claimed Poland was mounting a threatening military force that included tanks.
"Poland decided to fight illegal migration on the border with Belarus with the help of Leopard tanks," he said.
"You'd probably be surprised by that. Are they going to use tanks against civilians? They are just looking for any excuse to move their troops closer to our borders, the borders of the Union State (Belarus and the Russia)."
This is false.
While it is true that Poland increased troops at the border, the deployment is in response to illegal migration instigated by Belarus. Polish officials insist that no tanks are part of the mission, and Lukashenko provided no evidence to the contrary.
Since his disputed reelection in August 2020 sparked mass protests across Belarus, Lukashenko has made repeated accusations of a Western plot to oust him. His ire has mostly been directed at his NATO member neighbors Lithuania and Poland.
Lukashenko has repeatedly accused Poland of having territorial designs on Belarus and allegedly preparing for an invasion.
For example, in December 2020 Lukashenko claimed without evidence that Poland was bringing troops to the border to seize territory around Grodno in Belarus.
In January 2021, he claimed that the August post-election protests were an attempt to topple his government and then call in NATO troops, which would be used in a "blitzkrieg" against Russia.
In September 2020, Lukashenko claimed the United States had sent F-16 fighter jets to his border. He cited no evidence.
Earlier this year, Lithuania began experiencing a large influx of illegal migrants, mostly from the Middle East, arriving through its border with Belarus. Subsequent investigations, along with Lukashenko's own public statements, revealed that the Belarusian regime had been encouraging people in Iraq and other countries to come to Minsk, after which they were driven to border countries such as Lithuania and Poland.
In response, Lithuanian and Polish authorities have tried to secure the forested regions along the border with razor wire fences and other barriers. Polish troops were dispatched, and an estimated 6,000 are now there with up to 10,000 expected, Deutsche Welle reported.
The situation has led to some dangerous incidents, some fatal. In early October, Polish border guards reported that Belarusian border guards had fired shots at them. No one was injured, and it was theorized that blank rounds might have been used.
On Monday, Deutsche Welle reported that two Polish soldiers were injured in clashes with migrants trying to cross over the border. There also have been accusations that Polish authorities may be allowing illegal "pushbacks," the practice of forcibly shoving asylum seekers back across the border.
In September, three would-be migrants were found dead on the Belarus side of the border of what was believed to be exposure. Allegations surfaced that they had been returned to the Belarusian side by Polish border guards before they died.
Although the number of Polish troops has increased, there is scant evidence of tanks, let alone Poland's German-made Leopard II tanks, being deployed along the border.
According to the Polish Defense Ministry, no tanks have been used in the mission. "The Polish Armed Forces support the Polish Border Guard in the area of the Polish-Belarusian border," the ministry's press office wrote to Polygraph.info.
"As part of these activities, soldiers conduct patrols, build a fence and conduct information activities. No tanks or armored units are used in any of these activities."
The press office explained that scheduled military exercises are taking place now, but they have nothing to do with the mission to secure the border.
"For example, last week subunits of 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade rode from Świętoszów to Biała Podlaska. It was a test of a military unit's ability to relocate over a long distance. About 700 soldiers and 350 units of military equipment (including Leopard 2A4 tanks) took part in the event."
By mid-October, Polish authorities claimed there had been more than 9,600 attempts to cross the border illegally.
Around the same time, several European foreign ministers criticized Belarus' state-owned Belavia airlines for flying would-be migrants from Iraq to Minsk, where they are then delivered to the areas bordering Poland and Lithuania.