(Reuters) – The president of Belarus — Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin’s closest ally — mentioned on Sunday his ex-Soviet state stood absolutely behind Russia in its navy drive in Ukraine as a part of its longstanding dedication to a “union state” with Moscow.
Alexander Lukashenko, in energy since 1994 and accused in the West of human rights abuses, has allowed Russian troops to make use of his nation’s territory in invading Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy mentioned the Belarusian leader’s assertion amounted to a “sign”, with his actions to be watched rigorously. Some Ukrainian officers counsel Belarus might quickly develop into immediately concerned in the battle.
Addressing a ceremony marking the anniversary of the World War Two liberation of Minsk by Soviet troops, Lukashenko mentioned he had thrown his weight behind Putin’s campaign towards Ukraine “from the very first day” in late February.
“Today, we’re being criticised for being the one nation in the world to assist Russia in its battle towards Nazism. We assist and can proceed to assist Russia,” a video on the state BelTA information company confirmed Lukashenko telling the gathering.
“And those that criticise us, do they not know that we’ve got such an in depth union with the Russian Federation?…That we’ve got virtually a unified military. But you knew all this. We will stay collectively with fraternal Russia.”
Belarus has been dedicated to a “union state” with Russia because the mid-Nineteen Nineties, however little progress has been made on implementing the plan and in the previous 12 months Lukashenko has insisted that his nation should retain its “sovereignty”.
Lukashenko has, nonetheless, develop into more and more depending on the Kremlin since, with Russian assist and a safety crackdown, he contained mass protests by demonstrators accusing him of rigging his re-election in 2020.
Zelenskiy, quoted by Ukrainian media, informed reporters in Kyiv that Lukashenko’s feedback had been a “harmful” growth.
“Lukashenko’s assertion a couple of unified military with Russia is, above all, harmful for the Belarusian folks,” Zelenskiy mentioned alongside Australia’s prime minister.
“He should not drag Belarus right into a Russian warfare of invasion towards Ukraine. I imagine this can be a harmful sign. And I imagine that we’ll all see the outcomes of this sign.”
A senior Ukrainian intelligence official final week mentioned the danger was low of a direct invasion of Ukraine by troops from Belarus.
But the mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadoviy, mentioned on the weekend that the scenario on the Belarusian border was unpredictable and he had convened a gathering of metropolis officers to work out contingency plans in case of an escalation.
(Reporting by Ronald Popeski; enhancing by Diane Craft)