Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said that an air assault brigade would move to Belarus’ Western border in response to NATO exercises in neighboring nations, even as the country reels from massive anti-government protests which Lukashenko has dubbed a “color revolution” orchestrated by foreign agents. Lukashenko also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin promised him to help securing safety of Belarus if needed, state news agency Belta reported.
Speaking on state TV, Lukashenko said he was “worried” that NATO was carrying out military exercises in Poland and Lithuania, which he views as an arms build-up on Belarus’ borders.
“I am more worried about the situation that is unfolding on the territory of our neighboring states – Poland and Lithuania. As you know, military exercises of NATO troops are taking place there. That would have been fine, but there is an escalation and a build-up of the armed component in these territories. Naturally we cannot turn a blind eye to it, we cannot observe this calmly. And when early in the morning I was listening to the report of the Chief of the General Staff, I noticed: our military is also worried about this problem,” Lukashenko said.
In response to the drills, the Belarus president said that he has ordered the transfer of an airborne brigade from Vitebsk to Grodno.
Lukashenko also slammed foreign countries which he said were attempting to act as “mediators” in the country’s problems, urging them to “put their own business in order” before dictating to Minsk.
Earlier, Lukashenko said Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised to help him secure his country’s safety, if necessary RT and Tass reported. According to Lukashenko, the agreement was reached during a telephone conversation with his Putin on Saturday. “We have agreed – at our first request, comprehensive assistance will be provided to ensure the security of the Republic of Belarus,”he said.
“When it comes to the military component, we have an agreement with the Russian Federation within the framework of the Union State and the Collective Security Treaty Organization,”Lukashenko explained. “These moments fit this agreement. Therefore, today I had a long, detailed conversation with the Russian president about the situation. I must say, I was even somewhat surprised – [Putin] is absolutely aware of what is happening,”he added.
Lukashenko’s re-election for a sixth term last weekend was marred by massive protests, as thousands took to the streets over their belief that the election had been rigged. The Belarusian presidential elections were held on August 9, and according to the final official results provided by the Belarusian Central Election Commission on August 14, incumbent Lukashenko received 80.1% of the vote. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was considered his main opponent, came in second with 10.12%.
After exit poll results were announced on the evening of August 9, protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other regions of the country, leading to clashes between protesters and law enforcement. The protests continued over the following days.
The European Union has said it does not believe the election results were legitimate and is readying itself to impose sanctions on Minsk in response to the bloody police crackdown, which has already seen two protesters killed.
Workers at major state-run industrial plants were also hit with demonstrations and strikes during the week. In response, Lukashenko said workers at state-run companies should be fired if they go on strike, suggesting they were colluding with foreign actors, according to BelTa.
Meanwhile, on a visit to Poland on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was monitoring the situation in Belarus.