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Lukashenka Performs Balancing Act On Ukraine, Britain's Defense Ministry Says

Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)

Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka appears careful to avoid direct involvement in Russia's war in Ukraine out of concern about potential further economic reprisals, retaliation from Kyiv, and possibly discontent among his own armed forces, British intelligence said on May 16.

The West has imposed biting sanctions on Belarus following a 2020 election which the opposition says was heavily rigged in favor of Lukashenka, who subsequently unleashed a harsh crackdown on protesters, activists, and the media.

Isolated and economically weakened, Lukashenka has again turned to long-time ally Vladimir Putin for support, and once Moscow invaded Ukraine, he allowed Russia to launch attacks and supply forces from Belarusian territory.

However, despite early speculation, Belarus has not been directly involved in the conflict, the Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter on May 16.

Belarus announced the deployment of special forces along the Ukraine border following military maneuvers earlier this month, a move that Britain's Ministry of Defense said was likely to force Ukraine to keep a number of troops in the border area and prevent their deployment in the east.

But Lukashenka is "likely balancing support for Russia’s invasion with a desire to avoid direct military participation with the risk of Western sanctions, Ukrainian retaliation and possible dissatisfaction in the Belarusian military," the bulletin concluded.

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