Ukraine says Russia wants to drag Belarus into war, warns of invasion plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 11, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klementev/Kremlin via Reuters

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Lviv, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine said Belarus may be planning an invasion on Friday and accused Russia of trying to draw its ally into the war by launching air strikes on Belarus from Ukrainian airspace.

Belarus served as a springboard for Russian troops, missiles, and aircraft, before and after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but did not deploy its forces into active combat.

The Ukrainian military accused Russian planes of firing on Belarusian border villages from Ukrainian airspace on Friday to provide a pretext for an attack.

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“This is a protest! The goal is to involve the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus in the war with Ukraine!” The Ukrainian Air Force Command said in an online statement.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Air Force Command’s statement.

The alleged attacks occurred while Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko was meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, according to Ukraine’s State Center for Strategic Communications.

The center said in a statement that the outcome of this meeting may be an attack by Belarus across the northern border of Ukraine.

“According to preliminary data, Belarusian forces may enter into an invasion on March 11 at 21:00 (1900 GMT),” it added.

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Last week, Lukashenko, a close ally of the Kremlin, said the Belarusian armed forces would not and would not participate in what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine. Read more

Senior Ukrainian officials have said Russia is doing everything it can to draw Belarus into the conflict, after it failed in what Western countries describe as an initial plan for a misguided attack on the capital. Read more

“We also understand that the Belarusian government is doing everything in its power to avoid joining this war,” Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Yevni Lenin said on national television on Friday.

There was no immediate comment on Belarus’ allegations.

Ukraine’s security official, Oleksiy Danilov, said that Ukraine has so far shown restraint towards Belarus, although Russia is using it as a springboard for attacks on Ukraine. But he warned on Friday that “one of the fighters across our border will fight.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a more conciliatory note in a speech to the government of neighboring Poland, which also shares a border with Belarus.

“I really want our common neighbors to hear these words – the Belarusians. Peace among relatives, peace between neighbors, peace between brothers, we must also achieve this with them. And we will certainly do it,” said Zelensky.

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(Reporting by Natalia Zenets, Pavel Politiuk and Max Hunder) Written by Alessandra Prentice. Editing by Timothy Heritage and Daniel Wallis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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