Don’t push nuclear-armed Russia into a corner, says Lukashenko

Oct 14 (Reuters) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday warned Ukraine and the West not to corner its ally Russia, saying Moscow has nuclear weapons for a reason.

In excerpts from an interview with the American television channel NBC published by the Belarusian state news agency, Lukashenko said: “The most important thing is not to corner your interlocutor and also your opponent. So you can’t cross those borders – those red lines, as the Russians say. You can’t cross it.”

Concerns have grown in the West that Russian President Vladimir Putin may resort to nuclear weapons, as a series of defeats by his forces in Ukraine have shifted the dynamics of the war in Kyiv’s favour.

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“As for nuclear weapons, every weapon is a weapon created for something,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying.

“Russia has clearly outlined its position: God forbid there will be an attack on the territory of the Russian Federation; in this case, Russia can use all kinds of weapons if necessary.”

Lukashenko has no say in Putin’s military decisions, but his comments served to underscore the heightened state of East-West tensions as the war nears the end of its eighth month.

TERRORISM WARNING

Putin unilaterally declared four Ukrainian regions as Russia last month, a move overwhelmingly condemned by the UN General Assembly this week, and said he will defend Russia’s “territorial integrity” by any means necessary, including nuclear weapons if necessary.

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Lukashenko said separately he had put Belarus into what he called a state of heightened terror alert because of tensions at its borders.

He coupled the move with his announcement Monday that he had ordered Belarusian troops to deploy with Russian forces near Belarus’ southern border with Ukraine. The Belarusian Defense Ministry said the “Russian component of the regional grouping of armed forces” will arrive in Belarus in the next few days.

Allied with Moscow and sandwiched between Russia, Ukraine and three NATO countries, Belarus allowed Russia to use its territory as one of the launch pads for its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

His recent troop movements have raised concerns in Kyiv and the West that Lukashenko may be about to deploy his army to support Russia’s stalled war effort.

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Political analysts say it’s an unattractive option for him, but that he may not be in a position to turn it down if Russian President Vladimir Putin demands it.

Belarus is politically and economically dependent on Russia, and Putin’s support helped Lukashenko survive mass pro-democracy protests in 2020. Lukashenko crushed the demonstrations and all leading opposition figures were imprisoned or forced to flee abroad.

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writing by Mark Trevelyan; Edited by Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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