Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday that recent military manoeuvres were not aimed at Ukraine and dismissed “conspiracy theories” about deployments of Belarusian armed forces at the border.
Speaking at a conference of military leaders marking the end of snap military inspections held this month, Lukashenko also said that he could not rule out “aggression” against Belarus on the part of unspecified “neighbours”.
“If you want peace, prepare for war,” Lukashenko added, saying that military moves were limited to Belarusian territory and did not threaten anyone else.
Belarus has in recent weeks announced a flurry of military activity, including readiness checks and a fresh deployment of Russian troops to the country. The manoeuvres prompted suggestions from Ukrainian officials that Russia may be planning a fresh attack on Ukraine via Belarusian territory, as it did unsuccessfully in the early days of its war in Ukraine.
Lukashenko on Monday hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk, a rare foreign visit for the Kremlin chief. The visit prompted fears that Putin was seeking to cajole Belarus into joining the military campaign in Ukraine, something Lukashenko has so far declined to do.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports of such plans were “groundless” and “stupid”.