Ukraine Preparing for Attacks From Belarus, Zelensky Aide Says

Ukraine is preparing for attacks from Belarus, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

Denys Monastyrskyi, Ukraine's minister of internal affairs, told a local newscast that law enforcement agencies are ramping up measures to prevent attacks near the Belarus border, and near the front line, Ukrinform reported on Wednesday.

"Today, of course, we are stepping up work in the border regions with the Republic of Belarus," the minister said.

"We are hearing signals about the possibility of an attack by a subversion and reconnaissance group from this territory," said Monastyrskyi.

The official said Ukraine's national police, armed forces, security service and other agencies responsible for security have "stepped up their work" near the Belarus border.

"[In] the areas bordering places where hostilities are ongoing, the work of law enforcement officers has also been stepped up in order to identify subversion and reconnaissance groups," he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) listens to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (L) during their press conference on February 15, 2019 in Sochi, Russia. Russian President Putin had arrived in Sochi to meet with Belarusian, Turkish and Iranian Presidents. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have vowed to maintain and strengthen relations since Putin's war against Ukraine began on February 24. Days after Putin invaded Ukraine, the neighboring countries reaffirmed their commitment to boost state cooperation amid Western sanctions.

Lukashenko, a close ally of the Russian leader, has allowed Moscow to station its troops in Belarus and conduct large-scale military drills in the country, although Belarus has not sent troops into Ukraine.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on its social media channels last month that Belarus sent up to 20 railcars with ammunition to Russia to aid Putin in his war against Ukraine.

Putin, meanwhile, has suggested that the Western response to his war in Ukraine is pushing Russia and Belarus towards unification.

On June 26, Zelensky warned Belarusians not to allow Putin to drag their country into his war against Ukraine.

Zelensky suggested that Belarus was being drawn into the war more actively than at the beginning of the invasion.

"You are being drawn into the war. The Kremlin has already decided everything for you," Zelensky said during a video address. "But you are not slaves and cannon fodder. You don't have to die."

"Your lives are worthless to them," the Ukrainian leader said. "And you cannot let anyone decide what awaits you next."

He also accused Putin of sowing "hatred" between Ukraine and Belarus.

"And that is why the Russian leadership wants to involve you, all Belarusians, in the war. It wants to sow hatred between us. A lot depends on the common people of Belarus now."

Zelensky added: "I know that you may not take part in this war. Your lives belong only to you, and not to someone in the Kremlin."

Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told a press briefing in April that Belarus was a "co-aggressor" in the Ukraine war and "it has to be held to account just as Russia and Russian forces will be one day held to account."

"We saw that Belarus was used as a launching pad for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and to this day we see missile strikes taking place from the territory of Belarus," he said then.

Earlier this month, the mayor of Lviv, a major city in western Ukraine, called an operational meeting with military and civilian authorities to begin preparing for an attack from Belarus, Newsweek previously reported.

"We talked about the defense plan and the forces and means under the control of the city. The situation is changing, so our defense strategies also need changes and updates," said Mayor Andriy Sadovy, according to Pravda. "A defense headquarters will be established in each district of the city, and additional training will be conducted for members of the volunteer formations of territorial defense. Until we transfer them to 24-hour duty. But this decision can change at any moment."

U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment on July 11 that Lukashenko is "likely" trying to show support for his top ally, Putin, without directly entering the Ukraine war.

Newsweek has contacted the foreign ministries of Russia and Belarus for comment.