Despite Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s claim that the arrival of thousands of Russian troops in the country is only to bolster defensive security due to growing tensions on its border with Ukraine, the deployment has reignited fears that Belarus could seek to engineer a false flag operation and join Moscow’s war against Kyiv on the border.
As the first convoy of 9,000 Russian troops arrived in Belarus Saturday, the country’s Ministry of Emergency Situations started distributing weapons to its personnel to support the country’s defense forces to “defend the homeland” in case of conflict, Euromaidan Press reported. Meanwhile, officials are also looking to train the population in carrying out evacuation drills and preparing shelters.
With Ukrainian forces inching ahead to regain territory and putting Russian troops on the defensive, Moscow may look to open a new front against Ukraine in the north, which will force Kyiv to distribute its troops and resources, taking the pressure off beleaguered Russian forces in the east and the south. Moscow may even may try a new push toward the Ukrainian capital — an attempt that failed in the past.
Belarus’ Emergency Situations Minister Vadim Sinyavsky has sought to downplay the country’s preparations, calling them part of the civil defense framework. “The leadership of our country… is taking all measures to prevent this [military conflict in Belarus] from happening,” he said, as per the outlet. “But we understand that, unfortunately, the world is such that there may be a situation in which we will have to act quickly. In particular, within the framework of civil defense.”
Although Belarus, a longtime ally of Moscow, has been a staging ground to send Russian troops and missiles into Ukraine, also providing logistical support, supply lines and medical care for Russian soldiers, it has managed to stay away from directly participating in the war.
Belarus has claimed that the 9,000 Russian forces that arrived in the country Saturday are to be part of a regional force “exclusively to strengthen the protection and defense of the border” with Ukraine, according to Voice of America.
“We have agreed to deploy a regional grouping of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus,” Lukashenko said, as per Al Jazeera. However, he did not specify where the troops would be deployed.
Lukashenko defended his country’s preparations, saying that Ukraine is planning strikes on his country, although he did not provide any evidence to support his claim.
“Ukraine is not just discussing but planning strikes on the territory of Belarus,” he also said, noting that Belarus “must have plans in advance to counter all kinds of scoundrels who are trying to drag us into a fight.”
“There should be no war on the territory of Belarus,” he added.
Asserting that Ukraine has no plans to attack Belarus, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an international observer mission on his country’s border with Belarus on Oct. 11, according to Reuters.
Reacting to Ukraine’s request to Western allies, Belarus’ Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei reportedly said that sending international observers would mean the actual involvement of these third countries in the Ukrainian conflict.