War between Russia and Ukraine: latest news and updates

Credit…Markus Schreiber / Associated Press

Weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, it held joint military exercises with its neighbor and ally Belarus, concentrating tens of thousands of soldiers along the Ukrainian border, despite leaders of the two countries denying reports that the Kremlin was planning to start a war. .

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg, a promising weapon capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Lukashenka, who has been called “Europe’s last dictator,” has said he will make his country “ready for anything.”

mr. Putin promised to deliver the Iskander-M systems, which have a range of about 300 miles and can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads, “within a few months” and also promised to modernize Belarusian Su-25 fighter jets. Lukashenko asked the Russian leader to make his warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

“We must be ready for anything, even the use of serious weapons, to protect our Motherland from Brest to Vladivostok,” he said. Lukashenka said referring to Belarus’ westernmost city and Russian port in the Far East.

While the men were meeting, the Belarusian Armed Forces were once again conducting “mobilization” exercises in the area bordering Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, threatening to escalate tensions in an already troubled region and forcing Ukraine to put its border guards on high alert.

“Units are being brought to higher levels of combat readiness, practical measures are being taken to accept conscripts, weapons and military equipment are being removed from storage,” the spokesman for the operational command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement this month.

Ukrainian officials and Western observers say it is unlikely that Belarus, a former Soviet republic 9.4 million people, directly enter the war at this time, given the risks of provoking social unrest at home and undermine mr. Lukashenka is in power. According to Pavel P. Latushko, a former high-ranking Belarusian official who fled the country, the morale of the Belarusian military was also shaky.

Still, analysts say M. Lukashenko, the autocrat who remains in the Kremlin, is desperate to show his worth to Mr. Putin. Insert. He has proven to be a reliable friend since Mr. Putin has beefed up his security forces to help him quell the massive protests that followed an implausible landslide victory in a contested 2020 presidential election.

The former director of the Soviet collective farm pig complex G. Lukashenko has consolidated his power in Belarus for almost three decades, deftly maneuvering between East and West, playing one side against the other. But since last year’s uprising against him, he has become increasingly dependent on the Kremlin and obedient to Mr. Putin. Insert.

Some analysts believe that the emergence of pressure from Mr. K. Putin is causing Mr. Lukashenko to act more directly in the war, which leaves him with an existential dilemma. Joining the conflict could undermine his support at home, but if he doesn’t, Mr Putin could retaliate by taking steps to force him to step down.

In the early stages of the war, Belarus allowed Mr. Putin to use its territory to conduct Operation Shock and Awe by Russian forces in an attempt to capture Kyiv. The plan failed, but now that Russia is bogged down in a grueling war of attrition in eastern Ukraine, Moscow stands to benefit from any help from Mr. Trump. Lukashenka could provide.

mr. Lukashenka has shown himself to be a pliable friend. He used the 1,000-kilometer border between Belarus and Ukraine to place wooden “dummy tanks” in the forest, creating the illusion of impending danger; replenish the arsenal of Russia; and allow Moscow to launch missile strikes from the territory of Belarus.

According to the press secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Alexander Motuzyanyk, as part of the exercises to be held this weekend, the Belarusian army sent 3,500 to 4,000 troops to the border. According to him, the entire Belarusian army has about 60,000 servicemen. Lukashenka wants to add another 20 thousand.

Ministry of Defense of Belarus said his special forces will take part in the exercise, which will take place in the Gomel region in the southeast of the country, the border of which is only 65 miles from Kyiv.

Whereas Mr. Lukashenko has made it clear that he is now firmly committed to Mr. Lukashenko. Putin, he remains a fickle leader, known for his sometimes unpredictable behaviour. Among other things, he advertised hockey, vodka, saunas and tractor driving as remedies for Covid; sent a fighter intercept a European airliner wearing a famous dissident; and forced his generals to salute his teenage son.