Ukraine believes that Russia can launch a new offensive from Belarus and its army needs to be prepared for this scenario.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on January 11 made a surprise visit to Lviv, western Ukraine. Here, he met with advisers related to border protection issues and the current situation in the northwestern regions of the country, especially the area bordering Belarus.
“We understand that, apart from the big statements, we have not seen big upheavals there, but still need to be ready to fight on the border and near the border (Belarus),” Zelensky stressed.
Ukrainian officials fear that Russia could build up forces inside the territory of its ally Belarus before launching a new offensive from the northwest or even trying to enter and encircle the capital Kiev.
Belarus is a close ally of Russia but has said it will not send troops to participate in the operation in Ukraine. Belarus affirmed that the most important goal of Minsk is to prevent the conflict from spreading to Belarusian territory, and at the same time to protect its people from the risk of attack from unfriendly countries in the region.
Serhii Deineko, head of Ukraine’s Border Guard Service, said late last year that Russia currently has more than 10,000 troops deployed in Belarus.
Ukrainian Border Service spokesman Andriy Demchenko earlier this week accused Russia of deploying troops from Belarus to Donbass, eastern Ukraine. “Russian soldiers, formerly trained on Belarusian territory, are being transferred to the east to reinforce Russian forces on the front lines,” Demchenko said.
However, he affirmed that the situation on the border between Ukraine and Belarus was still under control, and did not rule out that Moscow used diversionary tactics to force Kiev to divert resources from the two hottest fronts today.