War in Ukraine: Belarus checks combat readiness of army equipment stores

Belarus has begun checking the “combat readiness” of equipment in long-term storage, in a chilling echo of statements made by Russia in the months before it invaded Ukraine.

Inspections “will determine the state of equipment and readiness to perform its duties,” the defense ministry said Monday during a meeting with leader Alexander Lukashenko with Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, has so far kept his forces out of fighting in Ukraine, but has allowed Belarusian territory to be used for attacks on Kiev in the early days of the war.

As the war continues and Putin faces an uncertain future, it is believed that Lukashenko was under pressure to involve his armed forces.

Belarus says to check ‘combat readiness’ of military equipment in long-term storage, echoing Russian statements before invasion of Ukraine (file image)

When the US first warned in early November that Putin was assembling his troops to invade Ukraine, the Kremlin used the pretense of “combat readiness” checks to dismiss the allegations as a provocation.

What followed were weeks of escalating tensions and repeated military exercises between Russia and Belarus, before Putin finally gave the order to attack on February 24.

Belarus first announced its own “readiness checks” earlier this month, saying it would involve “the relocation of significant numbers of military vehicles” while denying they posed a threat to a neighboring country.

Long-term military storage checks would be part of the same exercise, perhaps prompted by problems Russia has had in Ukraine with old and poorly maintained equipment.

British intelligence warned last week that troop maneuvers in Belarus are likely to prevent Ukrainian troops in the north of the country from moving to the front lines in Donbas, where most of the fighting is now taking place.

Kiev has said it sees no increased threat from Belarus but is “ready” for Minsk’s men if they decide to cross the border.

Minsk made the announcement the same day that leader Alexadner Lukashenko visited Putin at his Sochi resort for talks on the economy

Minsk made the announcement the same day that leader Alexadner Lukashenko visited Putin at his Sochi resort for talks on the economy

Putin urged Russia's economy to hold up well under Russian sanctions, while Lukashenko said this opens up the opportunity for closer cooperation

Putin urged Russia’s economy to hold up well under Russian sanctions, while Lukashenko said this opens up the opportunity for closer cooperation

“We do not rule out the possibility that the Russian Federation could one day use the territory of Belarus, the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus, against Ukraine,” said Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian State Border Service, earlier this month.

“That’s why we are ready,” he said, adding that the border with Belarus has been strengthened since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Russia launched the invasion after joint exercises with Belarus, which could have allowed it to bring more troops closer to the border.

Areas of Ukraine bordering Belarus were attacked by Russia in the initial stages of the invasion, but Russian attacks are now targeting the eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine.

Putin received Lukashenko today in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, boasting that his economy is “withstanding the blow” of Western sanctions.

“The Russian economy is resilient to the sanctions, it withstands it very with dignity,” Putin said. ‘All major macroeconomic indicators talk about this.’

At the same time, the Russian leader noted that “not everything is easy, everything that happens requires special attention and special efforts from the government’s economic bloc.”

Russia and Belarus held repeated joint 'combat readiness' exercises in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine, leaving Moscow a smokescreen for its eventual invasion (file image)

Russia and Belarus held repeated joint ‘combat readiness’ exercises in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine, leaving Moscow a smokescreen for its eventual invasion (file image)

Putin has repeatedly assured the public that Russia can withstand the pressures described by many experts as unprecedented.

However, the ruble briefly lost half its value at one point, prices for food and other goods rose, and temporary shortages of sugar, sanitary products and some medicines were even reported.

Lukashenko said the sanctions had given both countries the impetus to focus on self-development, and that the West’s elites had been misled about the causes of their economic woes.

“In terms of the economy, I am really grateful to them (in the West) for giving us such a boost for our own development,” Lukashenko told Putin.

“What’s happening there is that they’ve really underestimated it by reading their own media. They have inflation, but the truth is that ‘Putin is to blame’, ‘Putin is to blame for everything,’ Lukashenko said.

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