With an eye on Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine, Poland readies a new self-defense law

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s government has prepared new legislation to boost the nation’s capacity for self-defense, including more funding for first aid courses, better public warning systems, and more emergency shelters, officials said Friday.

Ministers of defense and of the interior said the bill was prompted by the war that neighboring Ukraine is fighting against Russia’s aggression. Russia has recently captured territory in the east, while Ukraine is running critically low on ammunition.

The legislation will be put before Parliament probably in May, after consultations with the public and with local authorities, ministers said.

“Because of the developments that we can see across our eastern border, we are talking here about extreme situations …, about an armed conflict,” said Marcin Kierwiński, minister of the interior and administration.

Poland is one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters on the military and the humanitarian levels and has taken in almost 1.5 million refugees.

Defense minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said they were presenting the bill “in order to deter, not to frighten anyone, but we must be ready for every potential situation.”

The law will allow Poles, including school children, to go through organized self-defense and first aid courses, starting this year. It also calls for improving Poland’s public warning systems and increasing the number and quality of emergency shelters in the coming years.

A large part of these tasks lies with local authorities, who will receive financial support from the central government. Some of the money will also come from the massive European Union funds that were recently unfrozen for Poland, after a euro-sceptic government was replaced with a pro-EU one in December.

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