World

Prince William has made a secret trip to Poland to “personally thank” Polish and British troops supporting Ukraine.

The Prince of Wales visited military bases in Rzeszow, just 60 miles from the border with Ukraine – the closest a senior member of the Royal Family has come to the war.

For security reasons, the visit was kept secret until the prince had left the base.

Prince William met the Polish defence minister and troops from the Polish Territorial Defence Force to learn about the support they are providing to Ukraine, praising their “passion” and “determination to defend our shared freedoms”.

Reflecting the country’s humanitarian response, he wrote of the “inspiring humanity” offered by Polish people.

“You have opened your hearts as much as your homes,” he said.

The prince also met British soldiers based in the area, asking about their experiences working in Poland and supporting Ukraine.

The city of Rzeszow has become a logistical gateway to Ukraine and is where most Western weapons arrive before being sent over the border to Ukraine.

Billions of pounds of weaponry and ammunition have passed through the US-led hub since the Russian invasion began.

Prince William is also visiting Warsaw and an accommodation centre which has been helping Ukrainian families who have fled the war.

The centre, on the frontline of the humanitarian crisis, is a refuge for 300 Ukrainian women and children.

As part of the two-day trip, Prince William will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw. It is a gesture echoing the visit of the late Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, who laid a wreath there in 1996.

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The Prince of Wales is also due to meet the Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Presidential Palace, and said he would use the meeting to express the “profound relationship” shared between the two countries.

The visit, planned by the government, is designed to show solidarity with troops supporting Ukraine. It also sends a strong message to Russia in the week the Chinese president visited the Kremlin.

Although members of the Royal Family cannot get involved in politics directly, their “soft power” has significant influence.

In February, the King hosted Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Buckingham Palace during his surprise visit to the UK.

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