Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has announced plans to put the nation’s military on high alert as well as close its borders with Poland and Lithuania amid rising hostility from the US and its European Union allies.
“We are forced to withdraw troops from the streets, put the army on high alert and close the state border on the west, primarily with Lithuania and Poland,” Lukashenko declared Thursday during a women’s forum.
“I don’t want my country to be at war. Moreover, I don’t want Belarus and Poland, Lithuania to turn into a theater of military operations where our issues will not be resolved,” he further emphasized.
“Therefore, today in front of this hall of the most beautiful, advanced, patriotic people I want to appeal to the peoples of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine — stop your crazy politicians, don’t let war break out!”
The Belarusian president pointed out that the country’s border with Ukraine would be strengthened as well.
The US and the EU been contemplating imposing sanctions against Belarusian officials for alleged vote-rigging and their response to violent riots following an election in which he defeated his rivals by 80 percent of the vote.
The European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution discarding the official election results and proclaiming that it would not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president once his current term expires November 5.
The hostile move provoked a strong reaction by Belarus’ foreign ministry.
“We are disappointed that the European Parliament, positioning itself as a serious, objective and democratic structure, could not find the political will to look beyond its nose, overcome one-sidedness and not become a hostage to conventional clichés.”
Lukashenko accused the US last week of organizing the post-election protests in Belarus through social media platforms.
He said the Americans, acting through centers in Poland and the Czech Republic, were controlling social media channels — particularly the Russian-designed messaging app Telegram — that are playing a leading role in the unrest.
The Belarusian president further underlined that the US interference was effectively a dry run for a future attempt to destabilize Russia.
Earlier this week, a Lithuanian defense ministry statement said the US will deploy 500 troops to the country to engage in war games near the border with Belarus.
The deployment, to last until November, is “pre-planned and not associated with any events in the region,” the statement added.
The US made the announcement while commending Lithuania’s investment on military warfare as more than a dozen Abrams tanks crossed the Lithuanian border from neighboring Poland on Saturday afternoon.
“This level of cooperation, training, security and, ultimately, stability has been made possible by the commitment of Lithuania in the investment of more than 2 percent of GDP on defense spending and modernization of its armed forces,” US Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said.
Russia, Belarus to hold joint military exercises
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared on Monday that Russia and Belarus would also hold joint military drills, but rejected allegations that Moscow would deploy forces to military bases in Belarus.
“This issue [of bases] was not discussed. Drills will be held, but such an issue is not on the agenda,” he said.
The announcement followed a warning a day earlier by Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin that an American armored battalion had redeployed its tanks to a location in Lithuania close to the Belarusian border.
Last month, Lukashenko instructed the military to closely monitor NATO’s activity in Poland and Lithuania and put the troops on Belarus’ western border on high alert amid increasing tensions in the region.
NATO has long been active on its so-called eastern flank — near Russia’s west.