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Belarus, a loyal Russian ally on Ukraine’s northern border, announced Wednesday that it would be moving troops inside the country in a counterterror exercise that some feared could be a mobilization for actual war.

The announcement raised the specter of possible Belarusian involvement in the nine-month-old Ukraine war — or a possible feint to split Kyiv’s attention.

Belarus’ security council said Wednesday that soldiers and military equipment would be moving around the country over the next two days for what it called training operations, the country’s state-run news service said.

The news service said some roads and transportation links throughout the country would be shut down as a result of the “audit of the state system of response to acts of terrorism,” but did not provide any specifics.

The announcement comes as Belarusian lawmakers approved new laws Wednesday enabling the death penalty for the crime of “high treason” committed by any military members or government officials, as well as a law criminalizing the spread of so-called “false information” about the country’s military.

A picture of Russian troops attending an artillery and combat training.
Belarus announced Wednesday that it would be moving troops inside the country in a counterterror exercise.
AP
A picture of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Western diplomats have said that waging war against the Ukrainians could backfire on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
AP

Similar laws have been employed in Russia to stifle dissent against the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus — whose autocratic leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, is widely seen as dependent on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the face of public protests — served as a staging ground for Russia’s ill-fated push into northern Ukraine in February.

Western analysts have long sought signs to whether Belarus would join the fighting on Russia’s side.

Western diplomats have expressed doubt that the relatively small Belarusian military could effectively wage war against the now-battle-hardened Ukrainians — and said such a move would provide an opening for Lukashenko’s opponents to try to unseat him.

A picture of rocket launder units taking part in a military exercise.
Some fear that Belarus moving troops could be a mobilization for war.

A picture of rocket launder units taking part in a military exercise.
The announcement raised speculation that Belarus might get involved in the Ukraine war or is using the announcement as a possible sleight to split Kyiv’s attention.

A picture of smoke rising from an area near Kursk airport.
Smoke can be seen near the area of Kursk Airport in Russia.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right), and Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin met during a meeting in Minsk, Belarus.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) and Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin held a meeting in Minsk, Belarus.
AP
A picture of multiple rocket launchers fire during Belarusian and Russian joint military drills.
Belarusian lawmakers recently approved new laws enabling the death penalty for “high treason” committed by any military members or government officials.

A picture of multiple rocket launchers fire during Belarusian and Russian joint military drills.
Belarusian lawmakers also approved a law criminalizing the spread of “false information” about the country’s military.

A picture of the aftermath of a drone attack at the Ryazan military airfield.
Three Russian residents were killed, and six were wounded during a drone attack at the Ryazan military airfield.

Ukrainian officials have previously expressed the opinion that Belarusian posturing could be used as a ruse to cause Kyiv to shift troops to the northern border.

Still, some analysts say Belarus has been taking the necessary steps to join the war and should be taken seriously as a threat to Kyiv.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that a decision has been made that Belarus could join the war,” Konrad Muzyka, of Polish think tank Rochan Consulting, told Reuters. “I don’t know whether this has happened, but from a military indicators point of view, everything is pointing towards Belarusian armed forces taking a more belligerent stance.”

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, (right) sat with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Minsk, Belarus for a meeting.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, (right) sat with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Minsk, Belarus for a meeting.

A picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin (right), and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, (left), during their meeting in Sochi, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right), and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, (left), during a meeting in Sochi, Russia.

“Belarus has actually been preparing to join the war on the Russian side for a few months. Every capability that they would need to go to war has been tested,” he added.

With Post wires

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