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Ex-Ambassador To Russia Says Belarusian Forces Pose An “Increased Threat” To Ukraine

Ex-Ambassador To Russia Says Belarusian Forces Pose An “Increased Threat” To Ukraine

(Alamy)

3 min read

A former UK ambassador to Russia has said the mobilisation of Belarusian troops would pose an “increased threat” to Ukraine, but said a “full-scale invasion” by Belarus was unlikely.

Belarus’ armed forces began a series of large-scale drills on Wednesday morning, fueling speculation that the country could be preparing to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Belarusian government said in a statement that the drills pose no larger threat, and are intended to assess its ability to “counter military threats both on land and in the air”.

Sir Andrew Wood, who was the UK's ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1985 to 1989 and its ambassador to Russia from 1995 to 2000, said Belarus becoming involved in the conflict was a possibility.

“If Belarus was ready to send its troops in and mobilise fully, it would of course be an increased threat,” he told Sky News.

“But the Belarusians so far have been extremely cautious about doing anything, and some Belarussians, at least, have decided to fight on behalf of the Ukrainians. 

“I think [Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko] has to watch his control over his own country which is already fragile.”

He added that Belarus joining Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “something which may happen”, but said it would not be a “full scale invasion” from the country.

Belarus has been accused of aiding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine without getting directly involved. Lukashenko is a close ally of Vladamir Putin, and reportedly spoke to the Russian leader on Tuesday about the conflict in Ukraine.

In a statement on Thursday, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said that “Belarusian land forces have been observed deploying from garrison to the field, for exercises” which was “in line with seasonal norms” and the country’s usual training cycle.

“Russia will likely seek to inflate the threat posed to Ukraine by these exercises in order to fix Ukrainian forces in the North, preventing them from being committed to the battle for the Donbas,” the statement said.

“Deviation from normal exercise activity that could pose a threat to allies and partners is not currently anticipated.”

Sir Andrew said the Ministry of Defence’s statement posed a “reasonable theory”, but said the threat posed by a potential invasion from Belarus would not “produce a surrender” from Ukraine as Russia may hope. 

“Ukraine, at present, is holding its own very, very well indeed,” he told Sky News. 

“[The conflict has] revealed the fact that the Russian army — and I would believe the Belarusian army as well — is of limited experience and skills.”

“We all believed, or most of us believed, that if the Russians did invade in February, it would be quite a quick win for them because of the numbers of troops.”

He said the progress of the Russian invasion had revealed that its arm has “rather little experience with fighting hand to hand” and that the country’s success in previous conflicts, such as its involvement in Syria, had been because its forces had “flattened cities”.

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