Lukashenka, Putin pledges further military cooperation as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine falters | Popgen Tech


Alyaksandr Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed during talks in Minsk that their countries will continue to hold joint military exercises and maintain military cooperation in other areas.

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The agreements came on Putin’s first trip in more than three years to see the Belarusian strongman amid speculation he may try to pressure Belarus to join the fight against Ukraine.

Russia and Belarus agreed to strengthen cooperation “in all areas”. Putin said during a joint news conference after meeting with Lukashenka for about two and a half hours.

These include “shared measures for the security of the two countries,” continued joint training, and “mutual arms delivery,” Putin said.

Russia will continue to train Belarusian crews to fly aircraft capable of carrying nuclear warheads, Putin added. He also confirmed plans for the flight of a Belarusian astronaut in 2023.

Lukashenka said the talks highlighted economic issues.

“Today we can state unequivocally: Together we were not only able to endure, but also find opportunities for the development of our economies,” he said.

But the Belarusian leader also mentioned military cooperation, saying that Belarus has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system and Iskander mobile guided missile systems handed over by Russia to combat conscription, while it country’s relationship with Russia raised.

“Russia can’t go anywhere without us, we can’t do anything without Russia,” Lukashenko said.

Putin also denied having an interest in absorbing Belarus or any other country, saying such rumors came from “ill-wishers”.

The US State Department said the statement was “the height of irony” as Putin seeks to absorb Ukraine.

Spokesman Ned Price said during a daily briefing that Washington would continue to monitor very closely whether or not Belarus would provide additional support to Putin and would respond “appropriately” if it did.

Putin’s visit to Minsk was his first trip to see the Belarusian strongman in more than three years and came hours after Russian forces attacked power grids and other infrastructure in Ukraine with kamikaze drones in an early morning attack on Kiev and its surrounding districts.

Lukashenka’s office said before the meeting that the two would hold one-on-one talks as well as wider negotiations with their ministers on integration, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed speculation that Russia would push its western neighbor to oppose the Ukraine to go to war.

Analysts and military officials said ahead of the talks that Putin could seek to persuade Lukashenko to deploy Belarusian soldiers alongside Russian forces in a joint attack on Ukraine.

Other experts say the Russian leader may be trying to distract Ukraine’s military leadership and pull his forces away from heavy fighting in the east and towards the border with Belarus in the north.

Ukrainian Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev said on December 18 that the two leaders were likely to discuss the “broader involvement” of the Belarusian military in the war.

Speaking to reporters before Putin’s departure, Peskov called reports that Putin would force Lukashenko to take a more active role in the war “groundless” and “stupid.”

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is also in Minsk for meetings with his Belarusian counterpart as Russia faces manpower issues after 10 months of fierce resistance by Ukraine.

Russia is currently training thousands of its own troops in Belarus as it does not have enough facilities at home.

Moscow transferred at least 50 Ural military trucks to Belarus on December 16, according to a watchdog group that monitors the movement of Russian troops.

Experts have said that Russia may be preparing for a large-scale offensive early next year.

Russia has used Belarus, which shares a 1,000 kilometer border with Ukraine, as a launching pad for its invasion. However, Belarusian forces did not participate in the attack.

With reporting by AFP and AP


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