The Russian President on Friday said political pressure from the West was pushing Russia to accelerate its integration with neighbouring Belarus.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu last week said the two countries must take urgent joint measures to improve their defence capabilities and troops’ combat-readiness.
It comes after the latest operation report from the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed a mobilisation of the people of Belarus is now being considered as a possibility.
President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s men “continue to be in the border areas [with Ukraine] of the Brest and Gomel regions”, according to the report.
The General Staff added: “According to available information, the military commissariats of the specified regions are studying the possibilities of covert mobilisation of the population.”
The New York Times has also drawn attention to “military drills” near the border with the Kyiv region, which are “raising tensions and putting the Ukrainian authorities on high alert”.
Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this month downplayed fears of Belarus opening a new front in Ukraine.
He said on June 6: “We are preparing for all the risks of invasion, but so far our analysts and experts do no see real risks of a second invasion from Belarus.”
In the few weeks between then and now, speculation over involvement in the war by the Russian ally has heightened.
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Spectator Assistant Online Editor Lisa Haseldine this week asked whether Belarus could join forces with Russia in Ukraine and concluded that this would be a “hugely risky move” for Lukashenko in terms of his popularity at home and that he would rather “wait the whole thing out”.
But she noted that upcoming events “may change things still”.
The two leaders will next week meet for the sixth time since the launch of Russia’s “special military operation”.
This is more times than in the whole of 2021 and, according to some commentators, is for the purpose of persuading Lukashenko to enter the war.
The Minsk leader has said he is doing “everything” to stop the war by for a peace agreement.
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He claimed in May: “We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn’t a war.
“Thanks to yours truly, me that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun.”
Reports suggest, however, that missiles have been fired into Ukraine from Belarus.
Putin has also promised Lukashenko new missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.