President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday that Belarus would join the offensive in Ukraine “only” if attacked first by Kyiv’s army.
“I’m ready to fight together with the Russians from the territory of Belarus in one case only: if so much as one soldier from (Ukraine) comes to our territory with a gun to kill my people,” the Belarusian strongman told a rare press conference with foreign journalists in Minsk.
“This applies to our other neighbours,” Lukashenko said. “If they commit an aggression against Belarus, our response will be the most cruel. The most cruel!”
Minsk allowed the Kremlin to use the country as a launching pad for its military operation against Kyiv last February.
Belarus still hosts an undeclared number of Russian troops but Lukashenko has promised not to send his forces — estimated at between 60,000 and 70,000 — over the southern border to Ukraine.
Despite Lukashenko’s repeated promises, fears have been building that his troops could also intervene.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last month said he backed plans to set up joint military training centres with Belarus.
This followed the announcement in October of the formation of a joint regional force with Moscow, and several thousand Russian servicemen arriving in the ex-Soviet nation.
The two countries also regularly carry out joint military exercises, insisting they are purely defensive.
Lukashenko said he would meet Putin on Friday.