Putin-Lukashenko meet while Russia struggles in illegaly annexed regions

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By Sasha Vakulina
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attend the talks in Minsk, Belarus.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attend the talks in Minsk, Belarus.   -   Copyright  Pavel Bednyakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko likely deflected Vladimir Putin’s efforts to coerce Belarus into further Russian-Belarus integration concessions, says the Institute for the Study of War, following a meeting between the two leaders in Minsk on Monday.

Putin, when referring to Belarus, notably stated that “Russia is not interested in absorbing anyone”. Some Russian forces are based in Belarus and used its territory in the initial invasion of Ukraine in February. Russia also has strike aircraft based in Belarus.

The think tank adds that Putin and Lukashenko refrained from publicly discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with both leaders saying that Belarus still faces a Western threat.

The ISW has previously assessed that Lukashenko uses the rhetoric of defending Belarus's borders against the West and NATO in an effort to avoid participating in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The think tank continues to assess that Belarus’ participation in Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine remains unlikely.

'Extremely difficult' situation for Russia

Russia’s president also said the situation in four areas of eastern Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson - that Moscow claimed to have illegally annexed in September - was “extremely difficult”

Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian force concentrations in rear areas of Zaporizhia Oblast as Russian forces continue to reinforce and establish defences in the area.

In Kherson, Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces are pulling back some elements from areas along the east bank of the Dnipro River.

But Ukrainian officials reiterate warnings that Russian forces may be conducting an information operation to lure Ukrainian forces into a trap there with false claims of a withdrawal.

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