Belarus’s Lukashenko announces troop deployments with Russia amid escalations in Ukraine
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday announced a joint military task force with Russia will deploy to the western border of the country near Ukraine amid a series of escalations in the Ukraine-Russia war.
The Belarusian news outlet Belta reported that Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed to the deployment of the troops, which includes forces from both Belarus and Russia.
Lukashenko said the task force includes more than 1,000 troops and has already begun forming. He also said thousands more Russian troops could soon be deployed within Belarus.
“This won’t be just a thousand troops,” he said, according to The New York Times.
Russia deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to Belarus as a staging ground for its initial invasion of Ukraine in February, and hundreds remained there, launching missiles and air raids.
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The new joint deployment comes after Russia launched mass strikes against Ukrainian cities in retaliation for an explosion on a key bridge connecting the Russian mainland to the Crimean Peninsula, which Putin called an act of terrorism and blamed on Ukraine.
The Russian strikes killed at least five Ukrainian civilians in the capital of Kyiv and more than a dozen in the southeastern city of Zaporizhia, drawing international condemnation across the Western world and renewed accusations of war crimes.
During a recent security council meeting, Lukashenko also said he was “warned through unofficial channels about strikes on Belarus” from Ukraine, without providing evidence.
“They said that it would be the Crimean Bridge 2. This information was immediately brought to my attention,” the president said, according to another article from Belta. “My answer was simple: Tell the president of Ukraine and other insane people, if they are still there, that the Crimean Bridge will be just the thin end of the wedge to them, if only they touch a single meter of our territory with their dirty hands.”
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Belarusian opposition leader, dismissed the claims that Ukraine poses a threat to the country.
“It’s a lie by Lukashenka to justify his complicity in the terror against” Ukraine, she tweeted. “He also violates our national security. I urge the Belarusian military: don’t follow criminal orders, refuse to participate in Putin’s war against our neighbors.”
Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin’s, has vowed war if Ukraine attacks his country and hosted Russian troops for military drills earlier this year.
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