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Poland Accidentally Invades Czech Republic In 'Minor Misunderstanding'

You'd be forgiven for not knowing that the Polish military recently invaded and briefly occupied territory in the Czech Republic. Seems like headline news, sure — but it appears that even the Polish troops didn't know what they were doing.

A spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Ministry confirmed to NPR on Saturday that "Polish soldiers mistakenly deterred our citizens from entering a church on the Czech territory in close vicinity of the Czech-Polish borders."

Czech officials say the incident happened in late May near a small village known as Pelhřimovy, just across the border from Poland. They added that their diplomats immediately notified their Polish counterparts, and that Polish soldiers are "no longer" present at the site, which Czech nationals can again visit as they wish.

Poland's Foreign Ministry confirmed the incident while contradicting the assertion that it was officially notified. Neither the ministry nor the Polish Embassy in Prague were formally informed about it, a spokesperson told NPR.

"According to our information, the case was discussed by the authorities responsible for border protection on the Polish and Czech sides," the ministry's press office said in a statement. "In the spirit of good Polish-Czech relations, we believe that this was only a minor misunderstanding that was quickly cleared up."

Poland's Ministry of Defense did not immediately reply to NPR's request for comment. But in a statement to CNN, officials there offered further details on the "misunderstanding" between the two European Union members, which they say occurred just across the border from a small Polish border village known as Pielgrzymów. Soldiers assisting the country's border guard simply established their post in the wrong location last month. It was "not a deliberate act," the ministry said.

"It was corrected immediately and the case was resolved — also by the Czech side," a spokesperson explained to CNN.

Though both countries belong to the EU, Poland closed its borders for nearly three months in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Poland only lifted those restrictions for most of its neighbors on Saturday, a couple of days ahead of an EU deadline to open internal borders within the bloc.

The Czech Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zuzana Štíchová, made clear there were no hard feelings about the little dust-up.

"Our Polish counterparts unofficially assured us that this incident was merely a misunderstanding caused by the Polish military with no hostile intention," she said. "However, we are still expecting a formal statement."

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.