Ukrainian intelligence suggests that Belarus is showing a “readiness to participate perhaps directly” in the invasion of Russia, “in addition to allowing the Russians to use their territory and letting them cross the border” with the Ukraine, a Ukrainian government official told CNN.
A second source close to the Ukrainian government told CNN that in addition to Ukrainian intelligence, the Biden administration also let Kyiv know that Belarus was preparing to invade.
The Washington Post first reported that Belarus was preparing to send troops to Ukraine, citing a US administration official.
Border talks: The intelligence comes as talks are scheduled for Monday between Russia and Ukraine near the Belarusian border.
Belarus is an ally of Russia and is used as a launching point for Russian troops in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko called his Ukrainian counterpart on Sunday.
“Politicians have agreed that the Ukrainian delegation will meet the Russian delegation without preconditions at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelensky’s office said. “Alexander Lukashenko took responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remained on the ground during the trip, meeting and return of the Ukrainian delegation.
Belarus’ view on the invasion: Lukashenko said last week that Belarusian troops could join the invasion “if it becomes necessary”.
“Our troops are not participating in this operation in any way. We are not going to justify ourselves here for our participation or our non-participation in this conflict. I repeat once again. Our troops are not there, but if it becomes necessary, if Belarus and Russia need them, they will be there,” Lukashenko said on a videotape from the YouTube channel of the state news agency Belta.
Zelensky’s appeal to Belarusians: On Sunday, Zelensky addressed Belarusians directly as “neighbors”, saying it was “a referendum for you too”.
“You decide who you are and who to become. How you would look into your children’s eyes. How you would look into each other’s eyes. In your neighbor’s eyes. And we are your neighbors,” Zelensky said.
The White House declined to comment. CNN has also reached out to the US State Department for comment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday morning on MSNBC that the United States and its allies reserve the right to further sanction Belarus. The US Treasury Department has already issued sanctions against 24 individuals and entities on Thursday.