(Reuters) – The head of the Belarusian Emergencies Ministry said on Monday that the Belarusian Emergencies Ministry is completing the arming and military training of its personnel to be ready to assist the defense and interior ministries in the event of an armed conflict.
Emergencies Minister Vadim Sinyavsky told state television Belarus 1 that the staff would be ready to help the ministries “in the event of an armed conflict or some kind of riot in which a large number of employees should be involved.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said earlier this year that he wanted “every man – not just a man” to be able to handle weapons at least to respond to an act of aggression.
While Lukashenko has not sent his forces into Ukraine, he has allowed Moscow to use Belarusian soil to launch its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Belarus and Russia have since held several joint military exercises, and in June Lukashenko allowed his country to be used as a nuclear weapons base for Moscow, a move widely condemned by the West.
Lukashenko has also met frequently with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the Belarusian leader’s latest trip to Moscow ending on Monday, with the two leaders speaking of a “strategic partnership”.
Russia and Belarus are linked in a partnership called the “Union State” in which Moscow is by far the dominant player.
The perception that Lukashenko, a pariah in the West, is dependent on Putin for his survival has fueled fears in Kiev that Putin will pressure him to join a new ground offensive and open a new front in Russia’s faltering invasion of Ukraine.
(Reporting by Lydia Kelly from Melbourne); Editing by Chris Reese
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