PRINCE William has undertaken a secret mission just miles from the Ukrainian border – to thank Polish and British troops forming defence against Putin’s aggression.
William, 40, made a hush-hush trip to a secure military base near Rzeszow, Poland, which is the final frontier before Ukraine.
The base is home to 75 Brits working in coalition with Polish and American allies just 50 miles from the Ukrainian border.
Royal sources say today’s visit was a “personal mission” to hail soldiers from both Britain and Poland in their efforts.
The Prince of Wales told the troops “everyone back home thoroughly supports you” after travelling amid huge security to Poland.
Brave Brits are forming a first line of defence against Putin’s aggression on NATO’s eastern flank.
He also got up close and personal with see Britain’s high-tech surface-to-air Sky Sabre missile defence system deployed near the border during his hush-hush trip carried out under massive security and secrecy.
He was greeted by defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak and spoke to Polish troops before thanking Brit heroes from the Royal Artillery Regiment.
Wearing civilian clothing he addressed the troops in the shadow of two fully armed missile launchers.
William addressed the troops, saying: “I know how busy you all are. Thank you for hosting me today, I just wanted to come here in person to say thank you for all that you are doing, keeping everyone safe out here and keeping an eye on what’s going on. So just a big thank you for what you do on a day to day basis.
“I know some of you are coming to the end of your time out here so looking forward to a bit of R and R when you get home.
“But you are doing a really good job out here, defending our freedoms is really important and everyone back home thoroughly supports you.
“And everything you are doing with our Polish counterparts in providing that safety is really important, so thank you for your time, lovely to meet you all and good luck.”
A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “The Prince of Wales was very keen to travel to Poland to thank British and Polish troops for their support in relation to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.”
Sources close to the future King said he wanted to get out and “meet the lads that are working hard” after the deployment started around a year ago.
British forces are training Polish counterparts bolstering defences after Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine.
William’s visit comes just days after Chinese President Xi jetted to Moscow to meet the Russian tyrant.
British troops have been training Poles in air defence for almost a year.
Britain first delivered our Sky Sabre rockets to Poland last May and extended the deployment last October.
In February, an additional 350 soldiers were added to the 100 already in Poland protecting the border from Putin’s aggression.
The 21st century ground based anti-aircraft missile technology has provided a massive upgrade in medium-range air defence capability bringing with it unprecedented speed, accuracy, precision and target acquisition.
Its operators say it can hit an object the size of a tennis ball travelling at twice the speed of sound.
Sky Sabre can do that to 24 separate targets travelling at supersonic speed simultaneously.
Wills, dressed in civilian clothes, arrived at the military base near Rzeszow at 3pm local time and was greeted by Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.
He hailed and thanked soldiers from the Polish 3rd Brigade Territorial Defence Force.
The unit has been providing support for Ukraine and gave their royal guest a display of military equipment.
He then spent 45-minutes with Brit servicemen – mainly from the Royal Artillery battalion – to talk about their experiences.
Wills was also given a private confidential briefing on the situation on the Polish Ukrainian border.
Rzeszow is the dropping off point for all aid and hardware to Ukraine and is 50 miles from the border.
Its airport is surrounded by US-made Patriot missile air defence.
Sources close to the prince say he has been following the crisis closely and chose to make the journey to thank the troops and shed a light on the humanitarian crisis in Poland.
Landing in Warsaw at 6pm local time, the Prince of Wales had said: “It’s fantastic to be back in Poland.
“Our nations have strong ties. Through our cooperation in support of the people of Ukraine and their freedom, which are also our freedoms and yours, these ties are further strengthened.
“I’m here because I want to personally thank the Polish and British troops working in close and crucial partnership. I also want to pay tribute to the inspiring humanity of the Polish people. You have opened your hearts as much as your homes.
“That’s why this afternoon I visited Rzeszow to meet troops based there to hear their stories and recognise their duty. I was struck by their passion as well as their shared determination to defend our shared freedoms.
“This evening, I’ll travel to an accommodation centre in Warsaw to see the humanitarian response first-hand and just how vital the support is that communities across Poland are providing to Ukrainians fleeing the war.
“Tomorrow, as I meet President Duda, I’ll reiterate the profound relationship shared by our two nations and underline my continued support and gratitude to the Polish people.”
Just days ago Jan Emeryk Rościszewski, Poland’s ambassador to France, warned the country has ‘no choice’ but to ‘enter the conflict’ in Ukraine if the war-torn country falls.
Wills, who along with senior royals, has blasted Putin’s war since last February’s invasion.
He will visit a refugee shelter tonight in a show of support for Ukrainian refugees who have fled the conflict.
The shelter houses around 300 women and children.
It offers Polish language courses, employment support, a play area and kickboxing classes.
He will also meet volunteers helping those who have fled conflict and managing a vast amount of donations.
Tomorrow, William will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw – a monument dedicated to Polish soldiers.
He will also meet Polish Prime Minister Andrzej Duda at the Presidential Palace.
And the whistle-stop trip will conclude at a local food hall for Ukrainians.