Russian military training in Belarus amid pressure to join Ukraine war

Russian military training in Belarus amid pressure to join Ukraine war

Russia’s armed forces are training in Belarus as the Kremlin ally comes under increasing pressure to join the war in Ukraine. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced “intensive combat training” in Belarus after Minsk said it was moving its forces to address an apparent threat of terrorism.

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko allowed Russia to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine in February.

Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu visited Minsk last weekend, leading to speculation that Lukashenko is facing increasing pressure to join the war in Ukraine.

The Belarus regime has been dependent on Vladimir Putin since Russian soldiers were deployed to crush demonstrations in late 2020 after a fraudulent election handed Lukashenko a sixth term.

Ukraine claims there is rising discontent within the Belarusian military about the possibility of being dragged into the conflict in its southern neighbour. Belarusian intelligence has recently claimed that Russian forces have plotted “false flag” strikes on Belarusian infrastructure that could compel Lukashenko to join the war. 

Belarus has only 48,000 armed forces personnel but an attack from the north would force Kyiv to move troops away from its frontlines in the southeast.

Lukashenko has introduced the death penalty for treason in an apparent attempt to ease difficulties and protests surrounding any deployment. 

The regime also plans to make it a criminal offence to “discredit” the Belarusian armed forces. 

Belarus is the only European country that retains the death penalty.

The sudden death by heart attack in November of Belarusian foreign minister Vladimir Makei, 64, who was associated with attempts to improve relations with the west, led to speculation that he was killed by Russian agents.

He was not known to have been suffering from any serious illness.

Pavlo Klimkin, a former Ukrainian foreign minister, claimed Makei was probably poisoned as part of a Russian plot to annex Belarus, without providing evidence. 

Makei was occasionally critical of the Kremlin but supported Lukashenko’s decision this year to allow Russia to attack Ukraine with missiles, aircraft and ground forces from Belarusian territory.

He told the United Nations Security Council in September that Belarus was not “an accomplice of the aggressor”, saying it had “never advocated the war” but would not betray its Russian allies.

 

Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin. Picture credit: Kremlin 

 

 

 

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