MINSK (Dispatches) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he would not hesitate to invite Russian troops to the country in the event of an extraordinary foreign threat.
“If it is required for the security of the union state, which we are building, and for the security of Belarus and Russia, to deploy all the armed forces with all types of armaments, they will be deployed here immediately,” Lukashenko said on Friday.
The president, however, said, “There is no need for that now.”
“We have quite a strong, united, and compact armed force… If it is not enough, Russian armed forces will be introduced… If it is necessary, we will not hesitate,” he added.
According to Russia, Minsk would need to submit a formal request before any troops could be deployed to the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Belarus had not approached Russia requesting troops.
Lukashenko made the remarks as tensions have increased between the West and Belarus over the past months. The West has been at odds with Belarus since the presidential election in August last year, which Lukashenko won. His main political opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, rejected the official results of the vote and claimed there had been voter fraud, without providing any evidence. Western governments came out in her support, repeating the allegations of vote rigging, also without proof.
In a latest development, U.S. President Joe Biden met Tikhanovskaya at the White House on Wednesday.
“I was honored to meet with @Tsihanouskaya at the White House this morning,” Biden said in a tweet. “The United States stands with the people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and universal human rights.”
The opposition figure, who is on a tour of the US, also met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, last week. She handed the Biden administration a wish-list of further sanctions to target Minsk.
The U.S. and the European Union have already imposed a raft of sanctions on Belarusian companies and officials over the voter fraud allegations, which Belarus has rejected as baseless.