The Russian President, Vladimir Putinvisited belarus on Monday along with his defense and foreign ministers, stoking fears in kyiv that he will try to pressure its former Soviet ally into joining a new ground offensive that would open a new front against Ukraine.
putinwhose troops have been expelled from the north, northeast and south of Ukraine since the invasion that began in February, is assuming a more public role in the war. The Russian leader visited his operations headquarters on Friday to speak with military commanders.
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His trip to talk with the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenkois the first to Minsk since 2019, before the pandemic of covid and a wave of pro-democracy protests in 2020 that the president suppressed with strong support from the Kremlin.
Russian forces used in February a belarus as a launching pad for a foiled attack on the Ukrainian capital and there has been Russian and Belarusian military activity in the area for months.
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Belarus was Russia’s “number one ally”but that Moscow’s suggestions to pressure Minsk to join what it calls its “special military operation” were “stupid and unfounded fabrications.”
The commander of the joint forces of UkraineSerhiy Nayev, said he believed that the talks they would address “an aggression against Ukraine and the broader participation of the armed forces of Belarus in the operation against Ukrainein particular, in our opinion, also on the ground”.
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The overall maximum of UkraineValery Zaluzhniy, told The Economist last week that Russia was preparing 200,000 new troops for a major offensive that could be mobilized from the east, south, or even Belarus in January.but also in the boreal spring.
Moscow and Minsk they established a joint military unit in Belarus and conducted numerous exercises. Last week they deployed in belarus three Russian combat planes and an early warning and control drone aircraft.
But lukashenko, a pariah in the West who relies heavily on support from Moscow, has repeatedly said that Belarus will not enter the war in Ukraine. Diplomats say committing Belarusian troops would be deeply unpopular at home.
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