Moscow is warning of a “collective response” to any attack on Russia or Belarus, as allies prepare to hold joint military drills.
Belarus could enter the Ukraine conflict if Kyiv decides to “invade” Belarus or Russia, a Russian foreign ministry official has said.
In an interview with state media aired on Friday, Aleksey Polishchuk said impending Russian military exercises with Belarus were designed to prevent escalation, but warned it was possible that Moscow’s closest ally join the war effort.
“From a legal point of view, the use of military force by the Kyiv regime or the invasion of the territory of Belarus or Russia by the Ukrainian armed forces are sufficient grounds for a collective response,” he said. Polishchuk told TASS newspaper. agency.
Russia used Belarus as a springboard to invade Ukraine last February, deploying thousands of forces to its neighbor under the pretext of military exercises before launching its offensive.
The two countries have since agreed to step up their military cooperation and plan to hold joint aerial exercises in Belarus next week.
The exercises have fueled speculation that Moscow could use its close ally to launch a new offensive on Ukraine from the north in the near future, opening up a new front.
But Ukrainian officials have dismissed the prospect of an attack from Belarus linked to the upcoming exercises.
“I would not associate these air force exercises, which will take place on the territory of Belarus, with massive missile strikes,” Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on Friday. .
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday that if Ukraine were to be ready on its border with Belarus, “we understand that apart from powerful statements, we don’t see anything powerful there.”
Belarus supported Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, but repeatedly ruled out joining the conflict.
According to Kyiv, Russia continues to use Belarusian airspace for drone and missile attacks.
Last month, Belarus summoned Ukraine’s ambassador to the country after he said Minsk shot down a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile in a field.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it would investigate the incident and suggested it may have been a Russian provocation.
The missile fell as Russia fired on towns across Ukraine, in one of the biggest waves of attacks since the conflict began.