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Polish leader welcomes Nato battalion, hailing 'historic moment'

Poland's president Andrzej Duda has welcomed a new multinational Nato battalion, hailing the arrival as "a historic moment for my country".

The near-permanent deployment of a Nato battalion under US command marks the first time Nato troops have been placed so close to Russian territory, a step the Kremlin denounces as a threat to its own security.

But Mr Duda said the deployment stands as a symbol of liberation and inclusion in the Western democratic world.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that generations of Poles have waited for this moment since the end of the Second World War," Mr Duda said in the north-eastern town of Orzysz as he addressed the troops and the US and British ambassadors.

The battalion of about 1,000 troops is led by the US, but includes troops from Britain and Romania. Croatian troops are expected to join later.

Their base of operations, Orzysz, is 37 miles from the border with Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea separated from the Russian mainland.

While Nato has held exercises in the region in past years, the deployment marks the alliance's first continuous troop presence in the area that was considered by defence experts as vulnerable.

Defence minister Antoni Macierewicz said the Nato presence guarantees the security of the alliance's eastern flank.

The Nato deployment is separate from a US battalion of 3,500 troops that arrived in Poland earlier this year and which is based in south-western Poland, near the German border.

Both missions are responses to calls for greater US and Nato protection by a region fearful after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for a rebel insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

AP

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