On Monday, December 19th, 2022, Vladimir Putin arrived in Minsk, with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was there to greet him. The two presidents met to discuss closer military cooperation. Putin’s visit was rare and was the first since his last visit in 2019. His meeting with Lukashenko has raised concern and fear for Kyiv and what will happen next in the continuing war.
Belarus has been a close ally of Moscow since the invasion began in Ukraine ten months ago. The meeting occurred shortly after Russia’s drone attack on Kyiv, which damaged the infrastructure in and around the country’s capital. Putin has been targeting Ukraine’s power grid since October to plummet the country into cold and darkness for the winter season.
During the press conference in Minsk, the two presidents discussed continuing a series of military drills and training that has caused alarm for Ukraine. Putin’s brief visit to Minsk could indicate more support from Belarus, after Belarus served as a preparation ground for the Russian military before the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
Lukashenko expressed how close of an ally Russia is and
that without its support, Belarus cannot protect its independence. For many years, Russia has worked to integrate with Belarus while strengthening its allegiance, as Belarus relies on Russia for its discounted oils and loans. The world may look at Belarus as an attendant to Russian strategies, but Putin has come to Lukashenko himself to consolidate military strategies. Two developments could occur from this. Either Belarus will fold into the Russian Federation and lose all sovereignty, or Belarus may become a serious asset to Russia by joining them on war grounds.
Earlier this year, Russia and Belarus announced plans to modify Belarusian aircraft to be nuclear-capable. Belarusian military crews have already been training to learn how to operate the planes that were modernized to carry nuclear weapons. Sitting beside Lukashenko, Putin emphasized their close military ties, despite the supply of military air defense systems being provided to Ukraine.
Ukrainian’s top general, Valery Zaluzhniy, explained that Russia is preparing its troops to invade from the east, south, or north of Ukraine. The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Sunday, that Ukraine is preparing its military forces for all possible defense scenarios. Protecting the border of Ukraine from Russia and Belarus is a constant priority. Ukraine is being provided aid for its military and air defense by its allies, but with Russia’s aggression on Ukraine’s power grid, more defense is necessary.
Previously, Lukashenko has allowed Russia to use his country as a preparation ground to send thousands of Russian troops into Ukraine, with Russian war jets also taken off from Belarusian bases. Yet, Belarus has not joined the war directly with its troops. Discussion during the Minsk Meeting has raised fears that Belarus is about to join in, aiding Russia in the continuing invasion of Ukraine.
Lukashenko has been hesitant in sending Belarusian troops to fight in Ukraine for the last ten months, but with ongoing military operations between the two countries, Belarus may be sending Belarusians to fight alongside the Russian troops in Ukraine.
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