1 Mar 2022 18:18

Lukashenko says he and Putin discussed creation of southern theater before Ukraine operation

MINSK. March 1 (Interfax) - The creation of a southern theater of operations was discussed between the presidents of Belarus and Russia months before the launch of Russia's special operation in Ukraine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday.

"We raised the matter of creating a southern operational area several months before Russia's conflict with Ukraine. We publicly held a meeting chaired by me, and determined which armed forces, troops and hardware should be there. This was pre-planned. We did not do it. In fact, the plan was to stretch all this over two years, knowing we have nothing to share with Ukraine. But alas, if this is the policy now, one has to defend oneself," Lukashenko told his Security Council and minsters on Tuesday.

"In the current situation I asked the president of Russia to leave only some of the forces to cover precisely the Gomel direction. Because the middle of our border with Ukraine is all impassable woods and swamps, rivers. Brest-ward, we have something to cover it with, there is a good brigade, and not only, stationed there. But Gomel-ward and elsewhere, because we never meant to fight Ukraine and never thought we would be threatened from Ukraine, we never based our Armed Forces there.

"We reinforced our border troops, created maneuverable groups there, and General Lappo [Anatoly Lappo, chairman of the Belarusian state border committee] was tasked with covering our border with Ukraine as much as possible. I must say that you managed it successfully. But the situation demanded that our southern area be bolstered with an army contingent. Once again I stress: I asked Putin to keep some of the units, especially in the direction of Mozyr and Gomel," Lukashenko said.

By then Ukraine had "already had twice as many troops" on its side of the border with Belarus, he said.

"And not only that. Uncharacteristically, Ukraine placed heavy weapons, missile weapons, including Tochka-U, near our border," Lukashenko said.