Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said he would deploy troops to a joint regional force with Russia Monday after months of hesitation to engage in active combat, Reuters reported.
Lukashenko struck a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has pressured Belarus for months to join the so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, at an unofficial meeting in St. Petersburg, Belarusian state-owned media outlet Belta reported.
The operation could possibly involve a joint Russia-Belarus force in northern Ukraine, Reuters reported.
“Due to the aggravation on the western borders of the Union State, we have agreed to deploy a regional grouping of Russia and Belarus,” Lukashenko said at an Oct. 10 security meeting, Meduza reported. “If the threat reaches the current level, as it is now, we’ll begin to deploy the Union State grouping.”
Ukraine plans to attack Belarus at the behest of its “western” masters, Lukashenko said, according to Meduza.
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Lukashenko said he had begun gathering forces in the previous days, following the explosion of a critical bridge connecting Russia to annexed Crimea, Reuters reported. No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion that happened Saturday, although Putin attributed the attack to an “act of terrorism” by Ukrainian special forces, The Free Press reported.
Lukashenko claimed to have received a warning via unofficial channels that Ukraine was planning “Crimean Bridge 2,” Reuters reported.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry summoned Ukraine’s ambassador to the country on Oct. 9, where he was given a diplomatic note accusing Ukraine of scheming to attack Belarus, Meduza reported, citing Ukraine’s foreign ministry.
“My answer was simple: ‘Tell the president of Ukraine and the other lunatics: if they touch one meter of our territory then the Crimean Bridge will seem to them like a walk in the park’,” he said, according to Reuters.
Belarus has thus far resisted active participation in the war, Meduza reported. Earlier in October, Lukashenko said he would support the special military operation but would not deploy forces into the conflict zone.
However, he has allowed Putin to base forces on Belarusian territory, sending troops and equipment across the border between Ukraine and Belarus, Reuters reported. Waves of missile launches on Ukrainian targets have also originated from Belarus, The Guardian reported.