Ukraine says ‘ready’ if Belarus joins Russia war effort

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KYIV (Reuters) – Kyiv will be ready if Belarusian armed forces join Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, a spokesman for Ukraine’s State Border Service said Wednesday.

Belarus, a close ally of Russia, said its military had begun large-scale drills on Wednesday to test their combat readiness and that they did not pose a threat to its neighbour.

“We do not rule out that the Russian Federation may at some point use the territory of Belarus, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, against Ukraine,” said Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s State Border Service.

“Therefore, we are ready,” he said, adding that the border with Belarus had been strengthened since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Russia launched the invasion after holding joint exercises with Belarus that allowed it to move more troops closer to the border with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian area adjacent to Belarus was under Russian attack in the early stages of the invasion but Russian attacks are now focused on eastern and southeastern Ukraine.

Demchenko said Ukraine had also strengthened its border with the Russia-backed Transdniestria region, where tensions have risen since local authorities said the region had been the target of a series of attacks.

Ukrainian officials have expressed concern about the situation in Transdniestria, and condemned what they say is Russia’s attempt to drag the region into Russia’s war against Ukraine. Moscow has also voiced concern and said it was following events in Transdniestria closely.

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Kent Logsdon, the US ambassador to Moldova, said on Wednesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and what he described as his attempts to redraw the map of Europe at gunpoint were a cause of great concern worldwide.

But he told a conference in Moldova that Washington had no evidence that Moscow wanted to extend the war to Moldova and said Russian President Vladimir Putin would lose the war, Moldovan media reported.