Belarus: EU warns Lukashenko of sanctions over joint grouping of troops with Russia

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By Euronews, AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Sept. 26, 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Sept. 26, 2022.   -   Copyright  Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

The European Commission on Monday raised the spectre of further sanctions against Belarus, urging Minsk to stop spreading "false accusations" against Ukraine and to call off a joint grouping of troops with Russia. 

Belarus' autocratic leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, reiterated claims on Monday during a meeting with military and security officials that "carrying out strikes on the territory of Belarus is not just being discussed, it is being planned in Ukraine."

He also said that the two leaders have agreed to create a joint "regional grouping of troops," but offered no details as to where or when such a grouping might be deployed.

Foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano told reporters in Brussels that the Commission "took note of the false accusations" which he branded "totally unfounded, ridiculous" and "utterly unacceptable."

"Ukraine here is the victim. Ukraine is not the aggressor. And we remind the Belarusian regime that Ukraine is under brutal, illegal attack, which is in violation of the UN charter and in violation of international law. And we urge the regime in Minsk to refrain from any involvement of Belarus in this brutal, illegitimate undertaking."

"And we also urge the regime in Minsk to immediately stop allowing the territory of Belarus to serve as a launchpad for air strikes, including the very recent missile strikes and drone attacks against Ukraine and the targets in Ukrainian territories," he added.

Lukashenko's latest claims came as Russia sent a salvo of missiles against Ukrainian targets on Monday, including in Kiyv where at least ten people were killed and dozens more injured.

The simultaneous attacks against the capital, the western city of Lviv, which has been a refuge for many people fleeing the fighting in the east, as well as in Kharkiv, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi, Zhytomyr and Kropyvnytskyi, represent a sudden military escalation and come three days after an explosion on the bridge connecting Russia to the illegally annexed peninsula of Crimea.

Putin on Saturday called the blast a "terrorist act" perpetrated by Ukrainian special services.

Asked about further sanctions against Russia, Stano stressed that if Belarus proceeds with the grouping of troops with Russia "this will be yet another escalation of this and this will not be unanswered from the side of the European Union."

"Let me recall that all these steps, especially by the Belarusian regime, are against the will of the majority of the population and will be met with new and stronger restrictive measures from the side of the European Union," he added.