Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has used a speech to threaten military retaliation against anybody who attacked his country, as tensions over the war in neighbouring Ukraine remained high.
Speaking on Saturday on the eve of the country's Independence Day, Lukashenko said he had ordered his armed forces to target "the decision-making centres" of Western capitals in the event of an attack on Belarus, adding: "Don't touch us - and we won't touch you," according to state news agency Belta.
Despite the fact that it was Russia that invaded Ukraine, Moscow and its staunch ally Minsk have repeatedly attempted to portray themselves as victims of supposedly hostile Western and NATO policies.
There have been fears that Belarus could officially enter the war alongside Russia since the Ukraine conflict began in late February, with Lukashenko admitting that Russian missiles were fired at Ukraine from Belarusian territory in the first weeks of the invasion.
At its two-day summit in Madrid earlier this week, NATO decided to significantly strengthen its eastern flank and to begin the process of admitting Finland and Sweden to the defence alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin then announced his intention to respond to the possible transfer of NATO soldiers to Finland with proportional Russian troop deployments in the region.
Earlier, Lukashenko said Ukraine had tried to strike military facilities on Belarusian territory three days ago, but all its missiles had been intercepted, the state-run Belta news agency reported.
Lukashenko, who did not provide evidence for the claim, said Belarus did not want war with Ukraine, but would fight if its own territory was invaded.
"They are provoking us. I have to tell you, three days ago, maybe a bit more, an attempt to strike military facilities on Belarusian territory was made from the territory of Ukraine," Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying on Saturday.
"But, thank God, the Pantsir anti-aircraft systems managed to intercept all the missiles launched by Ukrainian armed forces."
Lukashenko said there were no troops from Belarus fighting in what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.
Belarus is a close ally of Russia and allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine on February 24.
- with Reuters
Australian Associated Press
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