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Ukraine ‘to bolster border with Belarus’ after Putin travels to Minsk to meet Belarusian President


kraine is reportedly ramping up defence measures at its border with Belarus after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Belarusian counterpart on Monday.

Mr Putin travelled to Minsk to meet President Alexander Lukashenko for the first time since 2019.

The Kremlin has dismissed claims Russia plans to draw Belarus into its conflict with Ukraine as “unfounded”.

But Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin told the BBC on Monday that his country now plans to bolster its border with Belarus with a stronger military presence.

In a report by the BBC Mr Yenin said: “We are building up our defence lines all across the border.”

Moscow used Belarus – which borders both Russia and Ukraine – as a launch pad for its attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in February, and there has been Russian and Belarusian military activity there for months.

Although the two leaders have met numerous times this year, it is Mr Putin’s first trip to Minsk since before the Covid pandemic.

Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhniy, told the Economist last week that Russia was preparing 200,000 fresh troops for a major offensive that could come from the east, south or even from Belarus as early as January, but more likely in spring.


Moscow and Minsk have set up a joint military unit in Belarus and held numerous exercises. Three Russian warplanes and an airborne early warning and control aircraft were deployed to Belarus last week.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to Russian news agencies before the meeting, called suggestions that Moscow wanted to draw Minsk into the conflict “stupid and unfounded fabrications”.

The one-on-one meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Lukashenko followed a broader meeting that also included the countries’ foreign and defense ministers, among others.

Ukrainian joint forces commander Serhiy Nayev had said he believed Monday’s talks in Minsk would address “further aggression against Ukraine and the broader involvement of the Belarusian armed forces in the operation against Ukraine, in particular, in our opinion, also on the ground”.

But none of the journalists invited to speak asked Mr Putin or Mr Lukashenko – who has repeatedly said his country will not be drawn into Ukraine – about the war.

They in turn devoted their answers to ever-closer economic, industrial and defense alignment between their two former Soviet states.

Mr Lukashenko, at one point calling Mr Putin an “older brother”, praised Russia as a friend that had “held out its hand to us”, providing Belarus with oil and gas at discounted prices.

“Russia can manage without us, but we can’t (manage) without Russia,” he said.

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