Belarus claims 1.5m combatants ready to fight
Belarus claims it has 1.5 million potential military personnel outside its armed forces.
President Alexander Lukashenko is backing Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, letting Russian troops invade from Belarus and by allowing Moscow to train recruits in Belarus.
Lukashenko in February ordered the formation of a volunteer defence force of up to 150,000 while saying Belarus would only fight if attacked.
”The structures of the organisations, not the armed forces will amount to somewhere up to 1.5 million people in the event of a declaration of martial law and the switch of the economy to a war mode,” said Security Council secretary Alexander Volfovich.
Belarus has a population of around 9.3 million and its army has approximately 48,000 personnel and around 12,000 border troops, according to last year’s International Institute for Strategic Studies report.
Lukashenko is due to visit China from Tuesday until March 2.
Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang told his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Aleinik on Friday that Beijing was willing to work with Minsk to boost trust, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
China on Friday released a 12-point position paper on the conflict, calling for peace talks.
The paper says all parties should “support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible”.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the Chinese proposal but said only the country where a war is being fought should initiate peace plans.
Zelensky said he was planning to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping and noted that Beijing’s proposal showed “respect for our territorial integrity, security issues”.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said any plan must involve the withdrawal of Russian forces behind the 1991 borders.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he is planning to visit China in early April and called on Beijing to pressure Russia to end the war, according to AFP.
“The fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing,” Macron said while asking Beijing not to arm Russia.
He called on China to ensure Russia never uses chemical or nuclear weapons and that Russian aggression stops before it enters negotiations.
Picture credit: Kremlin