Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday threatened fierce retribution if Ukraine carries out an attack in his country as he claimed to have received a warning about planned strikes, according to Belarusian media.
Additionally, Lukashenko said he’d spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation and they’d agreed to deploy a regional military group near Ukraine.
Lukashenko noted Belarus had already started pulling forces together two days ago.
It comes after the attack on the 12-mile-long bridge linking Russia and Crimea on Saturday, which Putin blamed on Ukraine.
“Yesterday we were warned through unofficial channels about strikes on Belarus from the territory of Ukraine. They said that it would be the Crimean Bridge 2,” Lukashenko reportedly said at a meeting with security leaders, according to 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,” he added.
Lukashenko, who has maintained power in Belarus since 1994, provided no evidence for his assertion that Ukraine was discussing strikes on the Russian ally.
Lukashenko Claims Ukraine Planning Strikes
Lukashenko accused the West of pushing Ukraine to force Belarus into the conflict.
“I have already said that today Ukraine is not just contemplating, but planning strikes on the territory of Belarus,” he said.
Lukashenko said the move would be “madness from the point of view of the military” but claimed that the process had begun nevertheless.
“They are being pushed by their patrons to unleash a war against Belarus in order to draw us in it and deal with Russia and Belarus at a time,” he said.
Lukashenko said Belarus has been “preparing for this for decades” and that the country’s military “will respond” if necessary.
The comments signal a potential for escalation in the Ukraine–Russia war with the possible Russian–Belarus joint force in the north of Ukraine.
The new joint deployment comes after Russia fired cruise missiles on Ukrainian cities Monday in what Putin called an equivalent retaliatory response to the destruction of a strategically important bridge.
Putin accuses Ukraine of the attack and deemed it a terrorist action on Russian soil, promising to “respond firmly and on a scale corresponding to the threats created against Russia,” according to state-run media.
There are around 60,000 people in Belarus’s army. The country has had six battalion-tactical groups numbering in the thousands deployed to border areas for several months.
On Sunday, the head of Belarus’s border guards accused Ukraine of provocations at the border.
Russian forces used Belarus as a staging post for their Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, sending troops and equipment into northern Ukraine from bases in Belarus.