Lukashenka issues an ultimatum to Ukraine: Russia is preparing for a new offensive
As a possible new Russian offensive looms on the horizon, Lukashenka issued an ultimatum to Ukraine to abandon the counteroffensive and agree to negotiations on Russian terms. A schedule of joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises has allegedly been drawn up, providing an accumulation of forces for a joint attack from the “Belarusian bridgehead”.
Lukashenka issued another ultimatum to Ukraine: if Ukraine continues to fight to liberate the occupied territories and does not negotiate with Russia, Kyiv will lose further territory. Further, he promised to “instantly” use nuclear weapons in the event of aggression against Belarus and claimed that an approved plan for this exists. At the same time, he continues to disclaim responsibility for complicity in Russian military aggression by allowing Russian troops to attack Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, from Belarusian territory, shifting the blame to Kyiv for allegedly provoking Russia and Belarus. He also repeated that a NATO protectorate over western would be unacceptable.
Meanwhile, as the pace of the Ukrainian counteroffensive slows down, Russia continues preparations for its own offensive. Russia will lay the groundwork for offensive operations in early October, with action planned for the spring of 2024. Minsk also believes that a Russian offensive in Ukraine is likely to begin in the near future.
If this transpires then the “Belarusian bridgehead”, and possibly Belarusian troops, will inevitably be involved. Lukashenka and Putin previously announced that a possible direction of attack would be towards western Ukraine. At a meeting with military correspondents, Putin even discussed the possibility of a second campaign against Kyiv. However, this would require another round of mobilisation, plans for which Russian officials continue to deny, although other sources suggest it may take place as early as the end of September.
In this context, Belarus and Russia have begun preparations for joint exercises in the autumn. On August 18th a train carrying Russian equipment and troops arrived at Brest-Yuzhny station to participate in CSTO rapid reaction force exercises “Interaction-2023”, which will be held in Belarus from September 1st to 6th.
Simultaneously Belarus will also host other CSTO exercises: “Search-2023” involving intelligence forces; “Echelon-2023” for material and technical support of the troops; “Barrier-2023” for Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Protection Forces and medical support; and “Rock-2023” involving units of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Some of these exercises will take place at the Brest training ground, where the military of the Russian Armed Forces will stay at least until September 9th. Russia will then host the “Union Shield-2023” exercises from September 22nd to 26th, followed by the “West 2023” strategic exercises on undisclosed dates. Given the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, the “Thunder-2023” nuclear forces exercise in October-November may involve rehearsal of the practical application of weapons stationed in Belarus.
One way or another, if this calendar of military events is correct, in autumn and winter we should expect the next deployment of the Russian group of troops in Belarus.
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Situation in Belarus