Belarus leader says situation ‘escalating’ ahead of rare Putin visit

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is striking a defiant tone ahead of a rare meeting this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid growing concerns that Belarus could be drawn into Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Lukashenko, who emphasized his country’s sovereignty at a Friday rally in Minsk on Russia-Belarus cooperation, said the situation “escalated” as he prepares to meet with Putin on Monday.

The Belarusian leader refuted “whispering” in his country that “Russians are already walking the country”.

“I would like to emphasize this feature again: no one, except us, rules Belarus,” Lukashenko said, according to comments published by the presidential press service. “We must always assume that we are a sovereign state and independent.”

Putin will travel to Belarus and meet Lukashenko on Monday on his first state visit to the country in three years.

The two leaders are expected to discuss “important aspects” of their partnership and other international and regional issues, a Kremlin statement said.

Lukashenko last week said the main topic would be economics, but added that he and Putin will also discuss defense and security in the region, according to the Belarusian presidential press service.

Belarus served as a staging post for Russia early in the war against Ukraine when Putin mobilized troops and weapons in late February and sent them to Ukraine.

In October, Belarus also sent thousands of troops along with Russia to conduct joint military exercises, raising fears that Putin’s ally would commit troops to the war.

But Lukashenko has resisted direct participation in the war, even as Ukrainian officials warn that Russia is stepping up efforts to draw its neighbor into the conflict.

At Friday’s meeting in Minsk, Lukashenko defended his frequent meetings with Putin and Russian leaders, saying it was critical to coordinate and respond to “tactical issues” such as economic sanctions from the West.

Lukashenko also stressed strong ties with Russia, stressing that Belarus would “never be enemies” of the country.

“This is the state closest to us, the people closest to us,” he said. “I think as long as we are in power, we will continue this trend. If it were different, it would be like in Ukraine.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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