Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he has ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near Ukraine in response to what he said was a clear threat to Belarus from Kyiv and its backers in the West.
The remarks from Lukashenko, who has held power in Belarus since 1994, indicate a potential further escalation of the war in Ukraine, possibly with a combined Russian-Belarus joint force in the north of Ukraine.
"Strikes on the territory of Belarus are not just being discussed in Ukraine today, but are also being planned," Lukashenko said at a meeting on security, without providing evidence for the assertion.
"Their owners are pushing them to start a war against Belarus to drag us there."
"We have been preparing for this for decades. If necessary, we will respond," Lukashenko said, adding that he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation while at a meeting in St Petersburg.
Lukashenko said he had agreed with Putin to deploy a regional military group, and had started pulling forces together two days ago, apparently after an attack on Russia's road and rail bridge to Crimea early on Saturday (local time).
Lukashenko said that a warning was delivered to Belarus through unofficial channels that Ukraine planned "Crimean Bridge 2", though he did not give details.
"My answer was simple: 'Tell the president of Ukraine and the other lunatics: if they touch one metre of our territory then the Crimean Bridge will seem to them like a walk in the park'."
Belarus's army has about 60,000 people. Earlier this year, Belarus deployed 6 battalion-tactical groups, totaling several thousand people, to the border areas. On Sunday, the head of Belarus's border guards accused Ukraine of provocations at the border.
Russian forces used Belarus as a staging post for their February 24 invasion of Ukraine, sending troops and equipment into northern Ukraine from bases in Belarus.
Australia could send troops to Ukraine
Australian troops could be sent to Ukraine to help train the country's armed forces following Russia's "appalling" attack on Kyiv, Defence Minister Richard Marles has declared.
Russia has launched a barrage of missiles at Kyiv, which Vladimir Putin claims is in retaliation for the blowing up of the Crimean bridge built by Moscow to supply their military.
At least 11 people have been killed.
Mr Marles said he was with Ukraine's Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko when the "appalling" missile offensive was being launched at the country's capital.
"The sense of heartbreak was really palpable," he told Sky News on Tuesday.
"We need to be making sure we are supporting Ukraine over the long term so that we're putting them in a position where they can actually resolve this conflict and end it on their own terms."
Mr Marles said sending Australian personnel to train up Ukrainian forces was under consideration, as was supplying more weaponry which Ukraine has been calling for.
"We will be working up further support for Ukraine and that's a conversation that we're having," he said.
"Training is one of the measures that is being looked at."
Mr Myroshnychenko labelled the latest Russian attack "horrendous" and said his children grew up near a playground hit by one of the missiles.
"The only purpose is to scare people, to terrorise people," he told ABC News Breakfast.
"It is sending a strong message - that is, Russian revenge for the Kerch Bridge (linking the Crimean peninsula).
"It is only intimidation and it is psychological pressure. This is a war crime, what Russians have done, and they will be held to account."
Mr Myroshnychenko called on the government to provide more support to his nation.
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