The Russian leader said that he seeks a single defense space with Minsk. And that they will strengthen military cooperation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin paid an unusual visit to his ally Belarus on Monday as Russian forces continued their shelling over Ukraine amid a broad stalemate in the war for nearly 10 months.
The Kremlin chief visited Minsk hours after the latest Russian drone attack on Ukraine, but the trip sparked fears in kyiv that Moscow is planning to use that country as a platform for a new offensive on Ukrainian soil in the first months of 2023.
Moscow has been attacking Ukraine’s power grid since October, part of a strategy to deprive the country of heat and power during the winter.
But the possibility that Belarus is once again a strategic site in the Russian war, as occurred at the start of the invasion on February 24, was fueled by the Russian army itself when it stated that would participate in “tactical” actions in Belarus,after Minsk announced in October the formation of a joint force with Russia made up of thousands of soldiers.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov denied that the Russian president traveled to Belarus to convince Minsk to get directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine, calling these accusations “stupid” and “baseless.” Anyway, it was an unusual trip to Minsk by Putin, who always receives his Belarusian colleague, Alexander Lukashenko, in Russia.
On Sunday night, kyiv suffered a series of Russian drone strikes. Local authorities reported that several “infrastructures and houses” were damaged and that at least three people were injured. After the attacks, the Ukrainian energy operator Ukrenergo reported that it will impose cuts in kyiv and in ten other regions Given the “difficult” situation facing the network.
Putin said that he and Lukashenko talked about forming “a unique defense space” in the region, but rejected claims that Moscow was out to seize its neighbor. “Russia is not interested in any kind of merger, it is not feasible,” Putin said.
These are “common measures to guarantee the security” of the two countries, the “mutual delivery of arms” and the manufacture of weapons, Putin said. According to his spokesmen, Russia will continue to train the Belarusian military to handle aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Lukashenko stated that Russia can do without his country, but that Belarus cannot do without Moscow.
The Kremlin leader said he supported Lukashenko’s proposal to train the crews of Belarusian warplanes that have already been modified to use special warheads, referring to nuclear weapons.
Earlier this year, Russia and Belarus announced a plan to modernize Belarusian aircraft and make them nuclear-capable. Lukashenko said that the Belarusian crews have been training with Russia in order to handle these modified planes. to carry nuclear weapons.
Belarus is believed to have stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons that could be useful to Moscow. Lukashenko, for his part, needs help with his country’s battered economy. Moscow has maintained its war offensive despite Western sanctions.
Some analysts say the Kremlin may be seeking some form of Belarusian military support for its operations in Ukraine. But wintry weather and the depletion of Russian resources mean that any major Russian attack is likely won’t be coming soon,according to analysis by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.
That center also estimates that “it is unlikely that Lukashenko will commit the Belarusian armed forces (which would also have to be re-equipped) in the invasion of Ukraine.”
Source: EFE and AFP