The presence of Belarusian forces near the Ukrainian border could bind Ukrainian troops so they are unable to support the operation in Donbass, British defense officials said on Monday.
Belarus’s military said last week that it would deploy special operations troops near its southern border with Ukraine, after launching large-scale exercises to test its armed forces’ readiness to respond quickly to “potential crises” and air and ground threats.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has allowed Russian troops to assemble and conduct military exercises in the Eastern European country in the run-up to Moscow’s February 24 attack on Ukraine.
A large part of the Russian aggression force entered Ukraine from Belarus, bordering Ukraine to its south, Poland to its west, Lithuania and Latvia to its northwest, and Russia to the east. Russia has also launched airstrikes and missile strikes from Belarus, the British Defense Ministry said Monday morning, although Belarusian forces have so far “not been directly involved in the clashes.”
UK Ministry of Defense Says Lukashenko “probably balances support for Russian aggression to avoid direct military involvement, with the risk of Western sanctions, Ukrainian retaliation and possible unrest in the Belarusian military.”
Belarusians who oppose Lukashenko’s 28-year rule have joined the fight against Russian troops in Ukraine, the Washington Post reported earlier.
Andrew Jiang contributed to this report.