Belarus has deployed special operation forces along the Ukrainian border, complicating Kyiv’s military strategy even though the Eastern European ally of Russia hasn’t been directly involved in the conflict, British intelligence officials said Monday.
“The presence of Belarusian forces near the border will likely fix Ukrainian troops, so they cannot deploy in support of operations in the Donbas,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense tweeted in a daily update.
Russia is focusing its assault on the Donbas region in the east after suffering losses around Kyiv and other places in the initial weeks of the invasion that began Feb. 24.
The U.K. ministry said Belarus has not joined the fight directly, despite “early speculation,” though its territory was used by Russians to stage early advances on Kyiv and Chernihiv. Russia also launched missiles from Belarus.
Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko is often called the “last dictator” in Europe and is seen as a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At the moment, Mr. Lukashenko “is likely balancing support for Russia’s invasion with a desire to avoid direct military participation with the risk of Western sanctions, Ukrainian retaliation and possible dissatisfaction in the Belarusian military,” the U.K. ministry wrote.