July 30, 2021 – 23:27
The authoritarian president of Belarus said on Friday that he was ready to invite Russian troops to the country if necessary to ensure the security of Belarus and Russia.
But Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko added that at the moment “there is no need” for such a thing.
In his comments to the state-run Belta news agency, Lukashenko stressed that he had faced last year’s anti-government protests without engaging other countries’ armed forces, but added that he would not hesitate to bring in Russian troops if this were to happen. to be necessary.
According to the Belta news agency, Lukashenko said Belarus was able to deploy 500,000 troops quickly, but “if they are not enough, all the Russian armed forces will be deployed. If necessary, we will not hesitate. “
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Moscow had not received any formal request from Belarus to deploy troops and that “this is possible only after an official request from the leadership of a country to the leadership of our country”.
Russia and Belarus have close military and defense ties. Two Russian radar stations communicating with nuclear submarines in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and parts of the Pacific are located in Belarus. In September, the two former Soviet countries planned to conduct joint large-scale military exercises.
Until recently, Mr Lukashenko’s government had resisted Moscow ‘s efforts to expand its military presence in Belarus and rejected requests to open an air base and deploy additional troops to the country.
But after the political crisis that erupted in Belarus and was accompanied by massive protests following Lukashenko’s re-election for a sixth term in August 2020, Russia promised military support to its neighbor and a $ 1.5 billion loan to the collapsed economy. of Belarus.
The United States and the European Union have imposed a number of sanctions targeting the Belarusian leadership and key sectors of its economy following protests against manipulation of last year’s presidential election.
Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich told the Associated Press news agency that Lukashenko’s statements on Friday were a clear attempt to intimidate the West.
“For the first time, he threatened to deploy Russian troops in Belarus. However, the Kremlin is in no hurry to support these initiatives,” Karbalevich said.
Mr Lukashenko has accused the West of trying to orchestrate a revolution in the country he ruled with an iron fist for decades and of plotting a coup, including pressure on Belarus with sanctions. His electoral rival fled to Lithuania, and Lithuanian officials say authorities in Belarus are now loading the Lithuanian border with migrants to put pressure on the EU country.
According to the human rights center Viasna, Belarusian authorities in recent weeks have stepped up pressure on NGOs and independent media, carrying out more than 200 raids on the offices and apartments of activists and journalists this month alone.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists said raids and detentions targeting journalists continued on Friday in Minsk and other cities. Earlier this week, authorities announced the Belsat television channel, funded by the palakas, an extremist group.
A total of 28 Belarusian journalists remain in custody, awaiting trial or serving prison sentences. Journalists’ associations on Thursday demanded that authorities provide urgent hospital care for a well-known journalist, who is in custody. / voa