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Ukraine says Russia wants to go to war with Belarus, warns of invasion plan

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

March 11, 2022

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine said Belarus may be planning to invade its territory on Friday and accused Russia of trying to drag its ally into the war by staging air strikes on Belarus from Ukrainian airspace.

Belarus has served as a base for Russian troops, missiles and aircraft both before and after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, but it has not deployed its own forces in 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 offensive.

“This is a PROVOCATION! The goal is to involve the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus in the war with Ukraine!” This was announced by the Ukrainian Air Force Command in an online statement.

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

According to Ukraine’s State Center for Strategic Communications, the alleged attacks took place when Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko was meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The outcome of this meeting could be an attack by Belarus across Ukraine’s northern border, the center said in a statement.

“According to preliminary data, on March 11 at 21:00 (1900 GMT), Belarusian troops could be drawn into an invasion,” it said.

Last week, Lukashenko, a close Kremlin ally, said Belarusian forces would not participate in what Russia is calling its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Senior Ukrainian officials said Russia is doing everything it can to draw Belarus into the conflict after failing in what western countries described as the first plan for a blitz attack on the capital.

“We also understand that the Belarusian government did everything possible to avoid joining this war,” Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Yevheniy Yenin told national television on Friday.

There was initially no comment on the allegations from Belarus.

Ukraine’s top security official Oleksiy Danilov said Ukraine has so far shown restraint towards Belarus, despite Russia using it as a launch pad for attacks on Ukraine. But he warned on Friday that if “a fighter crosses our line, we will fight back”.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy struck a more conciliatory note in a speech to the government of neighboring Poland, which also borders Belarus.

“I really want these words to be heard by our common neighbors – Belarusians. Peace between relatives, peace between neighbors, peace between brothers, we must achieve that with them too. And we definitely will,” said Zelenskiy.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Daniel Wallis)

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Bobby Allyn

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