Fears grow of attack on Ukraine through Belarus

Putin's mouthpiece advocates escalating strikes in Ukraine

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After struggling for months, Vladimir Putin has moved ­thousands of troops to its neighbour, sparking speculation the two countries may mount a joint offensive on northern Ukraine.

Kyiv is only about 60 miles from the Belarus border and Russia launched part of its attack on Ukraine via there on February 24, but was soon forced to retreat by staunch defenders.

Military experts fear an attack could come at any time. Belarus has nearly 50,000 active personnel and nearly 500 tanks but has also given some of its arsenal to Moscow as Russia runs low.

Yesterday, the Ukrainian ­military issued a stark warning to the people of Belarus, releasing a video that said: “Your leadership is planning to drag the Belarusian people into a dirty war, to stain them with blood and death.

“If the Belarusian army ­supports Russian aggression, we will respond – with our entire arsenal of weapons.”

Joining the war would be ­politically risky for unpopular Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who has needed Putin’s ­support to stay in power.

Valery Sakhashchyk, the ­former commander of an elite paratrooper unit in Belarus who is now living in exile in Poland, said: “Putin really wants Belarusians to enter Ukraine so Lukashenko is bloodied too and will have to go to the end with him.

“Lukashenko will do ­everything possible not to send his troops to fight, to limit them to a supporting role. But there is ­certainly a threat.”

Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s national security ­council, said: “Belarus has been occupied by the Russian Federation for a long time.

“Russia does everything it deems necessary there, especially in the military sphere and Russian special services.”

Lukashenko has repeatedly rejected claims that he and his country are an “accomplice of the aggressor” in the conflict.

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