Russia and Belarus to deploy 'joint military task force'

Russian forces used Belarus as a staging post for their February invasion of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, Russia. Reuters
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Belarus and Russia will deploy a joint military task force in response to “aggravation” on the country's western borders, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has announced.

Belarus started pulling forces together two days ago, Belarusian state TV cited Mr Lukashenko as saying in a security council meeting on Monday.

Accusing Ukraine of preparing attacks on Belarus, he said the ministry of defence should be ready to place troops “where necessary”.

Mr Lukashenko met Russian President Vladimir Putin, a close ally, on the sidelines of a summit in St Petersburg on Friday, state TV reported.

Russian forces used Belarus as a staging post for the February invasion of Ukraine, sending troops and equipment into northern Ukraine from bases in Belarus.

The president also threatened Ukraine directly, making reference to an explosion on Saturday that destroyed a key bridge linking Russia to the occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

“Tell the president of Ukraine and other insane people, if they are still there, that the Crimean bridge will seem like flowers to them, if they even touch at least one metre of our territory,” state outlet Belta TV quoted Mr Lukashenko as saying.

Multiple cities in Ukraine were bombed on Monday, just hours after Mr Putin blamed Kyiv for the attack on the Kerch bridge.

Russia launched 75 missiles, including Iranian-made drones, the chief of Ukraine's armed forces said.

Kyiv was struck by several blasts, breaking several months of relative calm in the city, with multiple people killed and wounded. Explosions were also reported in the western city of Lviv, as well as in Dnipro, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytsky and Ternopil.

At least eight people were killed and 24 were injured in just one of the Kyiv strikes, according to preliminary information, said Rostyslav Smirnov, an adviser to the Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs.

Updated: October 10, 2022, 11:03 AM