Lukashenko braces for turmoil as Putin aims to drag Belarus into war

Lukashenko threatens Ukraine with ‘complete destruction’

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Alexander Lukashenko could face mutiny if he decided to send Belarusian troops to the battlefield, exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has warned. The Opposition leader, who is seeking to garner international support to challenge Lukashenko after a rigged vote, suggested Lukashenko’s unwillingness to mobilise his own troops is evidence his regime is weaker and more unstable than the west thinks. Given Belarusians’ support for Ukraine, deploying the country’s soldiers would backfire on Europe’s longest-serving President, she added.

Speaking on the sideline of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ms Tsikhanouskaya told the Financial Times the prospect of Lukashenko sending troops is improbable.

She said: “Lukashenko is already fully participating in the war. But the fact that our troops have not been sent to Ukraine is not because Lukashenko does not want to participate. He knows Belarusian do not see Ukrainian as enemies.”

Belarus has so far been used as a launch pad for Putin’s military to launch attacks from northwestern Ukraine in the early days of the war.

While Lukashenko has allowed the Russian army to carry out military training and combat readiness exercises, he has not been dragged into the conflict. Fears mounted that Putin’s visit to Belarus in December could trigger the country’s direct participation in the conflict.

But the Belarusian strongman has so far shown no signs of wanting to send his own troops to Ukraine.

According to Belarus’s opposition leader, such a move would backfire on Lukashenko and be followed by rebellion inside the country.

She explained: “If Lukashenko gives the order to participate, or even if he declares mobilisation, which would be the first sign of getting involved, what would happen? Massive disobedience, strikes and people fleeing Belarus as fast as they can. That is why I doubt Lukashenko is going to give his order.”

Amid the growing threat of another Russian incursion from Belarus, Ukrainian officials are reportedly mounting defence lines. Air force drills will be held until February 1 using all of Belarus’ military airfields and joint army exercises involving a “mechanised brigade subdivision,” the Belarusian defence ministry said.

A Russian foreign ministry official further upped the ante last Friday saying Belarus could be dragged into the conflict, should it come under Ukrainian attack.

Aleksey Polishchuk told the state-owned TASS news agency: “From a legal point of view, the use of military force by the Kyiv regime or the invasion of the territory of Belarus or Russia by the armed forces of Ukraine are sufficient grounds for a collective response.”

Pavel Slunkin, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who specialises in Belarus’s domestic and foreign policy issues, also discarded Belarus’ participation in the conflict on the basis that the Belarusian army does not have the capacity to turn the tide of the war in favour of Russia.

The Warsaw-based researcher cited Belarus’ small combat-ready segment of 15,000 troops, lack of readiness and the mined northwestern Ukraine which would decimate soldiers.

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According to a Chatham House opinion poll, more than 90 percent of Belarusians oppose joining forces with Russia to attack Ukraine.

Echoing Ms Tsikhanouskaya’s comments, Ms Slunkin said sending Belarusian to war could trigger a “serious wave of discontent” within the country.

A helicopter crash in Brovary in the Kyiv Oblast has claimed dozens of lives, reportedly killing interior minister Denys Monastyrskiy and at least 17 others including three children.

The crash comes as world leaders are meeting in Davos and making pledges tu support Ukraine with additional aide to counter Putin’s unprovoked invasion.

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