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Polish military halts explosives training after string of deaths

Five soldiers have died during exercises this month alone.

The Polish Defense Ministry has suspended almost all military training involving explosives after five fatalities this month. In the most recent incident, two soldiers were blown up when a TNT charge detonated at a range during an exercise.


In a notice posted on its website on Tuesday, the ministry said Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz had ordered an investigation into the Polish Army’s “procedures and safety conditions,” to take place immediately. 


In the meantime, “training using explosives and warfare agents is suspended,” the announcement stated, “with the exception of activities carried out by units preparing to participate in missions and operations outside the country and training Ukrainian soldiers.”


A special forces soldier died earlier on Tuesday when he was caught in an avalanche during mountain-warfare training in the Tatra mountains, army spokesman Lt. Gen. Marek Sokolowski told reporters at a press conference in Warsaw.


On Monday, two army engineers were killed in a TNT explosion while training at a range in the southern region of Silesia, Kosiniak-Kamysz announced.


This week’s deaths came three weeks after two soldiers were fatally crushed beneath a tracked vehicle during a drill at a test range near the northwestern town of Drawsko Pomorskie. Military officials said the deaths were unrelated to NATO exercises, which were taking place in northern Poland at the time.


The exercises, codenamed Dragon-24, involved 20,000 soldiers and 3,500 units of equipment from 10 NATO countries, including about 15,000 soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces. Dragon-24 is part of NATO’s wider Steadfast Defender 24 drills, which involve 90,000 troops from all 32 member states and will run until May.


Steadfast Defender 24 is NATO’s largest maneuver since the Cold War. The exercises, “during which a scenario of an armed confrontation with Russia is being rehearsed, are undoubtedly increasing tensions and destabilizing the situation in the world,” Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev warned earlier this month.

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