Poland and NATO are plotting a takeover of Western Ukraine and Belarus, the Belarusian president claims
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has expressed concern over alleged attempts by Western countries to "dismember" Ukraine amid Russia's ongoing military operation in the country.
During a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi on Monday, Lukashenko claimed that both himself and his host were concerned by the behavior of some Polish and NATO politicians. He especially cited the US-led military bloc's move to concentrate troops on the western borders of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.
"The politicians are taking steps to dismember Ukraine. We are worried that they, the Poles and NATO members, are ready to come out, to 'help' in this way, to take away, as before 1939, Western Ukraine," the Belarusian president said.
In his opinion, the West has "a similar strategy" when it comes to Western Belarus. He didn't offer evidence to back up the assertion.
"We are keeping our ears open," Lukashenko said, emphasizing his belief that at some point Kiev may need Moscow and Minsk's help to save Ukraine's territorial integrity.
On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Polish citizens would be granted a special legal status in his country, saying that "mentally, the Ukrainian and Polish people have been inseparable for a long time." The news followed remarks by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who expressed hope that in the future there would be no borders between Poland and Ukraine.
Speaking at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization - a Eurasian military alliance consisting of several former Soviet republics - earlier this month, Lukashenko said that the "attempts to dismember Ukraine" represent "the most dangerous trend in Ukraine today." He also said that "thousands-strong units have already been created in order to enter Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers."
He claimed that the West wanted to not only "weaken Russia as much as possible" but also to make the conflict "blaze wider."
"If this is the idea, then probably no one will be able to sit aside," he said.
Lukashenko's warnings about Warsaw's alleged intention to reclaim the part of Ukraine which belonged to Poland before it was re-assigned to the Soviet Union in 1939 echoed remarks made by Director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergey Naryshkin. Last month, he said that Poland might be plotting with the US to occupy western Ukraine with "peacekeepers" under the guise of military exercises. Warsaw has vehemently denied such claims.
"Russia's intelligence chief is spreading insinuations against Poland and the US, convincing falsely that both countries are preparing 'a Polish annexation of western Ukraine'," Stanislaw Zaryn, the spokesperson of the Minister-Special Services Coordinator, said.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.