Will Belarus, Russia’s key ally, join Putin’s war in Ukraine?

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Vinnytsia, Ukraine – When Belarus, Russia’s oldest and staunchest post-Soviet ally, evacuated its embassy from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, connected Saturday, the ambassador received a humiliating “gift”.

A Ukrainian borderline defender threw 30 pieces of metallic astatine Belarusian Ambassador Igor Sokol, according to a video changeable astatine an unnamed borderline checkpoint – a symbolic gesture.

“With hate!” the defender shouted arsenic helium threw the container of coins astatine Sokol.

For its part, Russia had closed down its embassy successful Kyiv 2 days earlier the penetration began connected February 24.

A borderline guard, connected the bid of the Head of the #Ukrainian Border Guard Service, gave 30 pieces of metallic done #Belarusian Ambassador Igor Sokol to the Chairman of the State Border Committee of #Belarus Anatoly Lappo. pic.twitter.com/YcehIb3yah

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 19, 2022

The Belarusian measurement is not conscionable a show of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin from his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. It may awesome a game-changing subject move.

Ihor Romanenko, a retired lieutenant-general and erstwhile lawman main of Ukraine’s General Staff, told Al Jazeera Belarus whitethorn articulation the fray connected Moscow’s broadside – and nonstop betwixt 10 and 15 tactical battalions of up to 800 men each to assistance the stalled Russian army which has been taking dense losses and hardly moving successful caller days.

“Judging by however things unfold, the anticipation is high,” Romanenko said.

He said this would travel weeks of purges wrong the Belarusian subject aft galore servicemen and officers refused to combat Ukrainians.

The Belarusians volition lone determination successful alongside Russian forces – and lone aft Moscow completes deploying reserves specified arsenic paratroopers from the Pacific fleet that are being hastily flown to occidental Russia and Belarus, helium said.

“The astir apt day is erstwhile Putin gathers his reserves, volition instrumentality a portion of them to the northbound [of Ukraine that borders Belarus], to the northeast,” Romanenko said.

Belarusian forces whitethorn effort to assistance Moscow prehend Kyiv, helium added.

“The superior is the main goal.

“Understandably, Putin thinks that if the superior is taken, the substance [of triumph implicit Ukraine] volition beryllium solved astatine erstwhile and successful principle.”

Ukraine, Russia, Belarus map

Another adept thinks Lukashenko’s forces whitethorn spearhead the Russian beforehand connected occidental Ukrainian regions that person truthful acold been comparatively untouched by the hostilities.

“Possibly, the penetration volition beryllium much full-scale,” Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russia researcher with Bremen University successful Germany, told Al Jazeera.

He said the Belarusians whitethorn assistance Russia beforehand towards 3 large occidental Ukrainian cities to dissect Ukraine and to chopped it disconnected from the sources of Western subject aid.

“The penetration whitethorn spell to Lviv, Kovel, Lutsk truthful that it could chopped Ukraine from its occidental borders or, astatine least, get Ukrainian reserves entangled successful the warfare and to trial however [battle-ready] they are,” helium said.

Lukashenko allowed Russia to usage its territory to invade Ukraine and amended his ex-Soviet nation’s constitution to let the deployment of Russian atomic weapons successful Belarus.

But erstwhile the penetration began, helium said helium was not going to backmost Putin militarily.

“We are not going to get dragged into the war, nary 1 is asking america to bash that,” the 67-year-old erstwhile corporate workplace president told Belarusian apical brass successful February.

However, connected March 15, helium threatened to “respond strongly” aft claiming a cruise rocket had been intercepted and destroyed implicit Belarus.

“Why is it done? To get america excited, to get america to respond. But we are not that simple. If we respond, we volition respond strongly. So that everyone tin consciousness it. But truthful far, we’re being patient,” Lukashenko said – but fell abbreviated of specifying who launched the missile.

Belarus has beefed up its forces on the Ukrainian border, though its apical commandant claimed it had thing to bash with the anticipation of their information successful the war.

“The question of troops is successful nary mode connected with the preparation, fto unsocial information of the Belarusian subject successful [Russia’s] peculiar subject cognition successful Ukraine,” Deputy Defence Minister Viktor Gulevich said connected March 12.

Ukraine’s apical information authoritative said connected Sunday that Lukashenko may, aft all, participate the warfare – and issued a informing to his servicemen.

“If a azygous Belarusian worker crosses the borderline with Ukraine, helium volition beryllium destroyed,” Security Council caput Oleksiy Danilov told Ukrainian media.

“The Russian president is forcing Alexander Lukashenko to commencement an penetration of the Belarusian army, but the second understands that it would crush Belarus,” helium said.

In 2020, the Kremlin helped Lukashenko past the largest fashionable protests successful his nation’s post-Soviet past that followed a disputed statesmanlike predetermination that handed Lukashenko victory.

The West did not recognise the results, lambasted Lukashenko for a convulsive crackdown connected protests and imposed pugnacious sanctions that made Minsk much babelike connected Moscow’s fiscal and governmental backing.

Tens of thousands of Belarusians who fled Lukashenko’s crackdown connected protests settled successful Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin dispatched teams of state-approved journalists and rotation doctors to assistance “improve” the sum of the protests connected Belarusian television.

Average Ukrainians person agelong been alert of Lukashenko’s pro-Russian sympathies and the unit Minsk has been under.

“Ukrainians person mentally absorbed the quality astir Belarus’ information successful the war,” Kyiv-based expert Aleksey Kushch told Al Jazeera.

“So, the effect volition beryllium similar it’s the belated quality study everyone is acceptable for,” helium said.

But militarily, it volition beryllium a occupation – whether Belarusians lone ore connected helping Russians instrumentality implicit Kyiv, oregon assistance them subjugate occidental Ukraine.

“Either way, it is going to beryllium problematic,” expert Romanenko said.

With conscionable 48,000 servicemen, the Belarusian service is tiny successful examination with those of Russia and Ukraine and has acold little combat experience.

But it has often held drills with Russians, has a akin post-Soviet structure, arms and different instrumentality arsenic Ukraine efficaciously retrained tens of thousands of its servicemen successful accordance with NATO standards and received hefty shipments of Western arms.

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