May 26 (Reuters) – Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday ordered the creation of a new military command for the south of country, bordering Ukraine.
“A new front has opened and we can’t fail to pay attention to it,” Lukashenko, wearing military uniform, told a televised meeting of defence officials.
He said the new command had been proposed last year but needed to be set up immediately.
“Even before creating it, we are obliged today – quickly, on the run, to work out the defence of our southern borders,” Lukashenko said.
Belarus is a close ally of Russia and allowed it to launch the northern prong of its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian territory.
Any build-up of Belarusian forces near the border will further stretch Ukraine’s military as it defends against Russian attacks focused on the Donbas region hundreds of miles (km) to the east.
Belarus said earlier this month it planned to deploy special operations troops in three areas near the border with Ukraine, as Lukashenko talked up the role of Russian-made missiles in boosting the country’s defences.
Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Catherine Evans