Lukashenko and Putin Affirm Their Close Ties Without Mention of Ukraine

Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus have agreed on “many issues” at a regional summit, both leaders said on Tuesday, amid concerns in Kyiv that Moscow could use its ally as a launchpad for a new ground offensive into Ukraine.

Statements from the Kremlin and the Belarusian president’s office about the summit did not mention Ukraine, nor did they offer details on what the men had agreed to during their talks in St. Petersburg, Russia. But the visit, and comments by Mr. Lukashenko, underscored his closeness to Mr. Putin and could add to fears that Moscow will try to draw Belarus, Ukraine’s northern neighbor, more directly into the war.

After Mr. Putin visited Belarus last week, a rare foreign trip for the Russian leader since his forces went to war in Ukraine, Mr. Lukashenko traveled to Russia for a two-day gathering of leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Moscow-centered collection of former Soviet republics, which began on Monday.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Lukashenko spoke on Monday at the summit and then rode back to their residences in the Russian leader’s limousine, continuing their talks late into in the evening, according to a report in Belta, the Belarusian state news agency. On Tuesday morning, the Russian leader picked up Mr. Lukashenko and the pair drove together to a summit event at the Russian Museum.

Speaking alongside Mr. Putin on Tuesday, Mr. Lukashenko said, “I thank you for the final agreement on many issues yesterday,” according to the Belarusian leader’s office.

Landlocked Belarus depends on Russia for security and fuel, with much of the Belarusian economy tied to refining Russian oil. Mr. Lukashenko said that much of his discussion with Mr. Putin had centered on economic issues.

For years, Mr. Lukashenko has sought to balance his country’s geopolitical affiliation between Russia and Western states. But when Mr. Putin supported Mr. Lukashenko during mass protests in 2020 that Mr. Lukashenko suppressed by force, it added to his reliance on the Russian leader.

In recent weeks, a flurry of military activity in Belarus near the Ukrainian border, including exercises involving thousands of Russian and Belarusian troops, has stirred reminders of February, when Russia used Belarus as a staging ground for the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have closely watched the developments in Belarus, although the director of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency told The New York Times last week that the activity was likely an effort by Moscow to compel Ukraine to divert soldiers from frontline areas.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said in a report last week that while a renewed Russian invasion from Belarus was “unlikely” this winter, the threat of such an offensive was “low, but possible.”

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