Ukraine’s border guard body said it had recently detained a man who had crossed Belarus‘ shared border with the country — illegally and undocumented — in order to join Ukrainian soldiers “in the war against the Russian aggressor“. The move, which has been denied by Minsk, would mark the latest sign of dissent from a nation once closely aligned with Vladimir Putin’s regime but increasingly adamant about fully backing the dictator’s invasion goals.
Andriy Demchenko, a spokesman for the State Border Service of Ukraine, told the Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda that the man had identified himself as a guard serving in a border group in Brest, a city in southwest Belarus on the Polish border.
Mr Demchenko said of him: “He noted that he decided to commit the violation in order to join the defence forces of Ukraine in the war against the Russian aggressor.
“The man also said that he had like-minded people regarding the need to confront Russia.
“A Belarusian border guard went to Ukraine with one of them, but on the way to the border they were discovered and chased with fire, so only he was able to cross the state border.”
Mr Demchenko said the agency was working to verify the information the border guard provided and would determine what to do with him after.
The State Border Committee of the Republic of Belarus denied the incident on Tuesday.
It said on Telegram; “Extremist sources spread false information about the alleged detention of a Belarusian border guard on the territory of Ukraine.
“All Belarusian border guards are at their duty stations and carry out tasks to protect the state border.”
Reports of the alleged incident came as an assessment by a US thinktank suggested support by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a long-time ally and friend of Putin, could be waning.
The Institue for the Study of War (ISW) said on Monday Lukashenko’s government is likely continuing to grant Russian forces access to Belarusian airspace to demonstrate “at least nominal support” to the Kremlin, though not going further so as to avoid direct military involvement of the Belarusian Armed Forces in operations in Ukraine.
The ISW said its analysis shows “Lukashenko is attempting to provide support to Putin’s war in Ukraine short of direct Belarusian military intervention” to prevent retaliation should he not “respond to the pressure Putin is likely putting on him”.
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The thinktank added: “As ISW has previously assessed, the likelihood of direct Belarusian involvement in the war in Ukraine remains low due to the effect that might have on the stability and even survival of Lukashenko’s regime.”
In reports that contradict the ISW’s predictions, Western intelligence agencies say Russian soldiers and weapons systems are ready and waiting in Belarus to open a new front against Ukraine.
The Belarusian army is conducting military exercises in the Gomel region along the Ukrainian border. According to the Belarusian Ministry of Defence, to make the exercises as “close to reality as possible”, members of the army’s special operations forces are also taking part.
With Russian soldiers repeatedly extending their stay in Belarus, the fear among many Ukrainians is that the exercises in Belarus could turn into warfare.
Lukashenko, who has met Putin six times since the start of the full-scale war in late February, recently reaffirmed his backing of the conflict in Ukraine, stating Minsk supported and “will continue to support Russia” in its “fight against Nazism”, stressing that Belarus would “remain together with fraternal Russia”.