Belarus: Ukrainian intelligence indicates that the country is ready to join the Russian invasion, and the United States suspends operations at the embassy
A second source close to the Ukrainian government told CNN that in addition to Ukrainian intelligence, the Biden administration also informed the Ukrainian government that Belarus was preparing to join the Russian invasion.
A senior US defense official told reporters on Monday that US officials have yet to see Belarusian forces “ready to move into Ukraine” or “that they are moving or present in Ukraine,” adding that the forces inside Ukraine are Russian.
A senior Biden administration official said the White House is watching Belarus’ actions closely and is ready to impose more sanctions on the country amid reports that Belarusian forces may join Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
In announcing the decision to suspend operations at the US Embassy in Belarus, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken referred to the “unprovoked and unprovoked attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine” but did not refer to any intelligence regarding possible military action by Belarus. Blinken said non-emergency staff and their family members would also be allowed to leave the US embassy in Moscow.
“If it becomes necessary”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said last week that Belarusian troops could join the invasion “if it becomes necessary”.
“Our forces are not involved in any way in this operation. We will not justify ourselves here about our participation or non-participation in this conflict. I repeat once again. Our forces are not there but if necessary, if,” Lukashenko said in a tape of the Belta channel on YouTube, Lukashenko told the news agency. Official Russian “Belarus and Russia need them and they will be there.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Belarusians as “neighbors” on Sunday.
“Belarusians, this is a referendum for you too. You decide who you are and who you become. How you will look in the eyes of your children. How you look in the eyes of each other. In the eyes of your neighbor. And we are neighbors.
Zelensky’s office said Lukashenko called Ukraine’s president on Sunday to discuss Monday’s meeting.
“The politicians agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions at the Ukraine-Belarus border near the Pripyat River,” Zelensky’s office said. “Alexander Lukashenko assumed responsibility for ensuring that all aircraft, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remained on the ground during the travel, meetings and return of the Ukrainian delegation,” he added.
Belarus announced on Sunday that the country had given up its non-nuclear state status in a referendum that day. According to the Central Election Commission of Belarus, 78.63% of eligible voters took part in Sunday’s referendum, and 65.16% of them voted to approve a new constitution that would abandon the country’s non-nuclear status and give Lukashenko the opportunity to run. Two additional terms in office.
The new constitution could theoretically allow Russia to return nuclear weapons to Belarus for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, when Belarus gave up its stockpile and became a nuclear-weapon-free zone.
Lukashenko’s office stated that the amendments and additions to the constitution approved in a referendum on Sunday will enter into force within 10 days.
CNN’s Hannah Ritchie, Josh Pennington and Eli Kaufman contributed to this report.