Why is Belarus helping Russia? Where is Belarus on a map?
President Alexander Lukashenko is known to have close ties with Putin's Kremlin and appears to be offering military assistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has claimed that troops from Belarus have entered northern Ukraine in what has been interpreted as a joint operation with Russia.
Earlier on Tuesday morning local sources had reported that a column of 33 units of Belarusian forces had invaded the Chernihiv region in northern Ukraine. This came after claims from Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko that he would not get involved in the conflict just last week.
This wasfollowed by a tweet from the Verkhovna Rada, saying: “Belarusian troops have entered Chernihiv region. The information was confirmed to the public by Vitaliy Kyrylov, spokesman for the North Territorial Defense Forces. More details later.”
Belarus shares its eastern border with Russia and is located directly to the north of Ukraine. Crucially, Belarus’ southern border is very close to the Kyiv and provides a direct route towards the Ukrainian capital.
Despite Lukashenko’s insistence, there have been reasons to think that Belarus could become involved in the invasion in recent days. Just last week the authoritarian leader held a referendum in Belarus which would allow him to tighten his grasp on the country and end its status as a nuclear-free zone.
Why is this important? Having won the referendum vote Lukashenko now has the legal authority to allow Russia to move its nuclear arsenal to Belarus’ southern border with Ukraine, within striking distance of Kyiv.
Tight-knit bond between Putin and Luksahenko
The introduction of Belarus in the invasion of Ukraine would mark a significant change in Russia’s strategy in the region, but it is far from unexpected given the closeness of the two regimes. Lukashenko was elected in Belarus’ first democratic election as a sovereign state in 1994 and has ruled ever since.
In recent years his electoral victories have been met with accusations of voter suppression, strong-arm tactics and voting irregularities as he repeatedly won by what CNN have termed as “suspiciously wide margins.”
In recent years he has strengthen ties with Putin, who has provided hundreds of millions of dollars of financial support to ensure that Lukashenko can remain in power. In turn, it is thought that the flow of Russian money likely comes with certain strings attached.
Proof of that alliance was clear in 2021 when Lukashenko said in an interview: "If we need to, Belarus will turn into one military base for Russia and Belarus in order to withstand your aggression, if you decide, or if any one country decides to attack. And you should be clear on this, I have never made any secret of it."
That appears to be the situation that Belarus now finds itself in, bound to support Putin’s expansionist foreign policy in the region and turned into a military base for the Kremlin’s continued assault on the Ukrainian people.