Desperate plea as Putin ally threatens western cities: 'Don't touch us'

Fears are growing that the bloody war in Ukraine could reach another level with a long-standing Putin ally threatening to ramp up military involvement.

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has used a speech to threaten military retaliation against anybody – including western nations – who attacked his country.

It comes as Belarus officials openly revolt over concerns Lukashenko will become more actively involved in the Ukraine war.

Lukashenko has allowed Russia to use Belarusian airspace and airbases to launch strikes and has also he allowed Russian troops to use his country as a staging ground for advancements into Ukraine.

However he has ratcheted up the rhetoric overnight, alluding to the prospect of Belarus officially entering the war.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko (L). Source: Getty
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko (L). Source: Getty

Speaking on Saturday (local time) on the eve of the country's Independence Day, Lukashenko said he had ordered his armed forces to target "the decision-making centres" of Western capitals in the event of an attack on Belarus.

"Don't touch us - and we won't touch you," he warned, according to state news agency Belta.

The pointed message has sparked alarm it could be setting the stage for a military escalation.

Lukashenko also claimed Ukraine had tried to strike military facilities on Belarusian territory three days ago, but all its missiles had been intercepted. However he provided no evidence for the claim.

"They are provoking us. I have to tell you, three days ago, maybe a bit more, an attempt to strike military facilities on Belarusian territory was made from the territory of Ukraine," Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying.

"But, thank God, the Pantsir anti-aircraft systems managed to intercept all the missiles launched by Ukrainian armed forces."

Lukashenko said there were no troops from Belarus fighting in what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine. He said he did not want to officially join the war, but cautioned he would if his territory was invaded.

Meanwhile senior officials is Belarus have reportedly signed a desperate letter calling for the dictator not to surrender sovereignty to Russia and join the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian army pounds eastern Ukrainian city

Fighting has intensified for Lysychansk, Ukraine's last bastion in the strategic eastern province of Luhansk, while blasts shook a southern city after the civilian toll from Russian strikes climbed in towns well behind the front lines.

Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the pro-Moscow self-styled Luhansk People's Republic, told Russian television on Saturday that "Lysychansk has been brought under control," but added: "Unfortunately, it is not yet liberated."

Russian media showed videos of Luhansk militia parading in Lysychansk streets waving flags and cheering, but Ukraine National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk told Ukrainian national television the city remained in Ukrainian hands.

"Now there are fierce battles near Lysychansk, however, fortunately, the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army," Muzychuk said.

He said the situations in the Lysychansk and Bakhmut areas, as well as in Kharkiv region, were the most difficult on the entire front line.

"The goal of the enemy here remains access to the administrative border of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Also, in the Sloviansk direction, the enemy is attempting assault actions," he said.

'Very difficult path to victory': Zelensky

In his nightly television address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it would be a "very difficult path" to victory but it was necessary for Ukrainians to maintain their resolve and inflict losses on the "aggressor ... so that every Russian remembers that Ukraine cannot be broken."

"In many areas from the front, there is a sense of easing up, but the war is not over," he said. "Unfortunately, it is intensifying in different places and we musn't forget that. We must help the army, the volunteers, help those who are left on their own at this time."

Kyiv says Moscow has intensified missile attacks on cities far from the main eastern battlefields and that it deliberately hit civilian sites. Ukrainian troops on the eastern front lines meanwhile describe intense artillery barrages that have pummelled residential areas.

with wires

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