Sunday, January 29, 2023

Putin visits Belarus amid Ukraine shelling

Kyiv, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Russian President Vladimir Putin made a rare visit to his ally Belarus on Monday as Russian forces continued their shelling of Ukraine amid a widening standoff in the nearly 10-month war.

Putin visited Minsk hours after the most recent Russian drone attack on Ukraine. Moscow has been attacking Ukraine’s power grid since October, part of a strategy to deprive the country of heat and electricity during the winter.

On his brief visit, he could announce more military support for the Kremlin’s war effort, as Belarus provided the launching pad for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.

Putin said he and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko had discussed creating a “single defense space” in the region, but dismissed claims that Moscow was ready to seize upon its neighbour.

Putin said, “Russia is not interested in any kind of merger, it is not possible.”

Putin said he supported Lukashenko’s proposal to train the crews of Belarusian warplanes that have already been modified to use special weapons, referring to nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, Russia and Belarus announced plans to modernize Belarusian aircraft and make them nuclear-capable. Lukashenko said that Belarusian crews are training with Russia to handle those planes modified to carry nuclear weapons.

Lukashenko thanked Putin for providing his armed forces with short-range Iskander missiles and the S-400 air defense system. He also said that both countries have agreed to continue joint military exercises.

Belarus is believed to have a stockpile of Soviet-era weapons that could be of use to Moscow. Lukashenko, for his part, needs help with his country’s battered economy. It was a rare visit to Minsk for Putin, who usually hosts Lukashenko in Russia.

Moscow has maintained its war offensive despite Western sanctions and the supply of Western air defense systems to Ukrainian forces.

Sitting next to Lukashenko, Putin emphasized their close military-technical ties. These include not only mutual supplies of equipment, but also joint work in high-tech military industries, he added.

Some analysts say the Kremlin is seeking some sort of Belarusian military assistance for its operations in Ukraine. But cold weather and a lack of Russian resources mean any major Russian offensive is unlikely to happen anytime soon, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

An assessment published on Sunday said “the ability of the Russian Armed Forces, even reinforced by elements of the Belarusian Armed Forces, to prepare and conduct large-scale and effective mechanized offensive operations in the coming months is questionable.” Has been made.”

It concluded that “Lukashenko is unlikely to commit the Belarusian Armed Forces (which would also have to be re-equipped) in an invasion of Ukraine.”

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Renata Brito in Kyiv and Edith M. Lederer in the United Nations contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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