Russia and Belarus warn Nato to avoid military expansion in Ukraine
Russia says any Nato expansion into Ukraine would cross a “red line”, while Belarus said it would work with its neighbour to counter growing western military activity in the former Soviet state.
Belarus’ strongman president, Alexander Lukashenko, an increasingly close ally of Moscow, says US training centres are being established in Ukraine claiming they were in reality military bases. Lukashenko said he and Putin had discussed the developments.
“You see, they are dragging Nato troops there, to Ukraine. Under the guise of training centres, they are actually creating bases. The United States is creating bases in Ukraine. It is clear that we need to react to this,” Lukashenko reportedly said at a meeting in his presidential palace in Minsk.
“The Russian president and I have held and are holding consultations on this issue and have agreed that some action should be taken there. Otherwise, tomorrow we will have an unacceptable situation right on the border between Belarus and Russia.”
Tensions have been high in the region since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine.
“It’s clear we need to react to this… [but we] agreed that we need to take some kind of measures in response,” the Belarusian dictator said, according to the RIA news agency.
Lukashenko also blamed Europe for a looming humanitarian catastrophe this winter after migrants from war-torn countries were left stranded in no-man’s land between Belarus and Poland. He has previously threatened to flood the European Union with drugs and migrants.
During September three migrants died on the Polish side of the border and another died on Belarusian territory. An Iraqi man died on Polish soil from a suspected heart attack on Friday.
Lukashenko said the Belarusian authorities had treated the immigrants well.
Ukraine and Nato began joint military last week in the wake of the vast Zapad-2021 exercises held by Russia and Belarus earlier in September.
Ukraine is hoping to establish closer ties with Nato and has asked to join the military alliance.
Russia earlier this year began building up military personnel on Ukraine’s borders.
Moscow said Belarus and Russia are taking action to ensure the security of the two states.
“President Putin has repeatedly noted the issue of the potential broadening of Nato infrastructure on Ukrainian territory and has said this would cross those red lines that he has spoken about before,” a Kremlin statement said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Putin’s “red lines” could not extend beyond Russia and Kiev had to make its own security decisions.
“Putin’s ‘red lines’ are limited to Russia’s borders,” Kuleba tweeted. “On our side of the Ukrainian-Russian border we can figure out ourselves what to do in the interests of the Ukrainian people, as well as Ukraine’s and Europe’s security.”
The relationship between Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin is increasingly close. Picture credit: Wikimedia