In an interview with The Associated Press published May 5, Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, cast himself as a peacemaker who’s tried to prevent war in Ukraine.
“We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn’t a war,” Lukashenko told the AP.
That is an astounding falsehood.
In fact, intelligence and media reports indicate that Lukashenko was privy to and embraced Russia’s plan for a full-scale war against Ukraine, even as Russia for months lied about its plans.
The record shows that Lukashenko has actually done almost everything he possibly could to help Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal attack on Ukraine.
Even before Russia’s invasion began on February 24, Lukashenko amended the Belarus constitution to allow a permanent deployment of Russian troops and nuclear weapons on its soil, prompting new European and U.S. sanctions.
Lukashenko allowed the Russian military to use Belarus as a transport hub for some 30,000 troops and trainloads of military equipment, including tanks, Iskander and S-400 missile systems and helicopters. Belarus has also provided logistical support, multiple analysts reported.
Belarus’ military participated in joint combat readiness drills with Russian troops immediately before the invasion of Ukraine.
Belarus launched additional combat readiness drills on May 4, prompting concerns that Belarusian troops might be preparing to join Russia’s forces in Ukraine. So far, that hasn’t happened.
From day one of the war, Lukashenko allowed Russia to launch hundreds of missiles from Belarusian territory, killing and maiming thousands of civilians and devastating whole towns and cities.
On March 1, a segment of the Belarusian state TV live broadcast went viral with video of Lukashenko showing a map of Russian missile batteries inside Belarus and discussing Ukrainian targets. Lukashenko admited he was aware of the Russian plans in advance: “I thank these guys. They warned us, literally six hours before the launch of the missiles …”
According to U.S. intelligence estimates, Russia launched nearly 670 ballistic missiles from Belarusian soil into Ukraine during the first two weeks of the war.
In mid-April, three Russian missiles launched from Belarus nearly caused a “nuclear catastrophe,” the Belarusian rights group Khartia ‘97 (Charter ‘97) reported. It cited Ukraine’s nuclear power station operator, Energoatom, which assessed the risk of rockets hitting a nuclear reactor at the Mykolayiv power plant as “high.”
Some polls show a majority of Belarusians oppose backing the Russian invasion. Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya is spearheading the antiwar movement from exile in Lithuania. Tsikhanovskaya had run against Lukashenko in the disputed 2020 presidential elections.
Lukashenko “allowed our lands to be used as an aircraft carrier for Putin,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a visit to Washington, D.C.
In addition to civil opposition, Belarusians formed a battalion that is fighting on Ukraine’s side against Russia.