Belarus president urges unity with Moscow in ‘difficult times’

1. Belarus
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands before their meeting in Minsk on December 19, 2022. (Photo: Sputnik/AFP)
KYIV — Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko urged closer military cooperation with Russia on Monday during a rare visit from President Vladimir Putin, who launched his invasion of Ukraine from his neighbor’s territory.اضافة اعلان

Putin landed in Minsk with his ministers of defense and foreign affairs in tow, hours after Russian forces launched a swarm of attack drones at critical infrastructure in Kyiv, which provoked emergency blackouts in a dozen regions.

“Difficult times require us to have political will and to focus on getting results on all topics of the bilateral agenda,” Lukashenko told Putin.

“The main issues lately have been defense and security issues,” he added.

The Kremlin has for years sought to deepen integration with Belarus, which relies on Moscow for cheap oil and loans, but Lukashenko had resisted outright unification with Russia despite being a key ally.

Speculation mounted ahead of the Russian leader’s visit that he would pressure Lukashenko to send troops to Ukraine to fight alongside the Russians after Moscow suffered a string of defeats in nearly 10 months of fighting.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, dismissed the reports “as totally stupid, groundless fabrications”.

‘Open for dialogue’
“Russia and Belarus are open for dialogue with other states, including European ones. I hope that soon they will listen to the voice of reason,” Lukashenko said.

Putin told his Belarusian ally that he hoped to deepen economic ties between the countries during the visit and praised Belarus as “our ally in the truest sense of the word”.

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, is a long-time Kremlin ally and allowed Russian troops to attack Ukraine from his country on February 24.

Hours before Putin touched down in Minsk, Russia announced its forces were running military drills with Belarusian forces.

The defense ministry released footage of drills in Belarus, showing soldiers conducting tank maneuvers, and practicing artillery and sniper fire at a snow-dusted training ground.

“From the morning until the evening twilight — there is not a single second of silence at the training grounds of Belarus,” the ministry said.

It did not say where the drills were taking place or how long they would last.

In October, Belarus announced the formation of a joint regional force with Moscow with several thousand Russian servicemen arriving in the ex-Soviet country, fueling concerns Minsk could also send troops to Ukraine.

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