Russian president Vladimir Putin met on Tuesday with Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko, who spoke with Putin in the eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk, said he believes Belarus’ branding as “an accomplice of the aggressor” is unfair. Minsk, which is providing logistical support to the Russian military and served as a key staging point for Russian forces in the opening stages of the invasion of Ukraine, has fallen under many of the same Western sanctions as Moscow since the start of the war on February 24.
Lukashenko characterized the war as a “dangerous moment,” explicitly blaming Britain and the United States for the military tensions roiling Eastern Europe. The Belarusian leader referred to the Bucha massacre as a “special British operation,” cryptically adding that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) could provide further information. Lukashenko did not immediately offer additional details or provide proof supporting the allegation that London was somehow involved in the Bucha incident. Putin referred to the alleged war crimes in Bucha as “fake” in a televised news conference following his meeting with Lukashenko, comparing them to what he described as atrocities staged by the West in Syria that were subsequently attributed to President Bashar al-Assad.
Putin doubled down on the Russian war effort in the same conference, insisting that the campaign in Ukraine is going “according to plan.” Putin said that ongoing peace talks with Ukraine, which appeared to sputter shortly on the heels of the Bucha revelations, are “at a dead end,” adding that “the military operation will continue until its final completion and the tasks that were set at the start of the operation are achieved.” The Russian leader said military conflict with Ukraine was inevitable, pointing to what he characterized as Ukraine’s increasingly aggressive anti-Russian posture.
Belarus changed its constitution last month to allow Russia to permanently station troops and weapons in the country. The change is the latest indication of deepening defense ties between Minsk and Moscow. Experts saw signs in early March that Lukashenko was laying the groundwork to justify Belarusian intervention in Ukraine. But Belarusian troops have not yet joined in on Russia’s invasion, defying the widespread expectations of Western defense officials and exiled Belarusian opposition figures.
The Kremlin’s decision to vacate the Kyiv region to focus on consolidating Russian control in Ukraine’s east may have postponed Belarus’ entry into the war. At least for now, Russia no longer has a northern theater, thus removing the only front in which Belarusian ground forces can play a meaningful battlefield role.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.