The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kiev has denied allegations that the country is secretly funneling guns and ammunition into neighboring Belarus, which has been gripped by unrest in recent months.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed on Friday that elite security forces had uncovered a terrorist plot linked to the opposition groups behind the protests that have been held since last summer’s presidential election. He said police had arrested “the last of the bastards,” and “they were trafficking tons of weapons through Ukraine.” He went on to say the suspects “were preparing terrorist attacks all over the country, and they had already begun carrying them out.”
Ukraine’s government reacted angrily to the suggestions, with diplomatic spokesman Oleg Nikolenko taking to Twitter on Friday to insist that “Ukraine categorically rejects Alexander Lukashenko’s latest insinuations. Rhetoric about external intervention, and specifically the mantra about weapons coming from Ukraine, clearly fits into Lukashenko’s policy of intimidating the Belarusian people.” He stressed that Kiev is not an enemy of Belarus, and that it condemns all forms of terrorism.
Lukashenko has previously accused Belarus’s neighbors, including Poland and Lithuania, of harboring terrorists, adding that, over the past few weeks, “the border has been closed tightly.” He has even suggested that militant groups “penetrate Russia, where we don’t have a border.”
In December, amid escalating unrest and a reportedly worsening coronavirus situation, Belarus announced it was suspending entry to almost all foreign nationals through its frontiers.
The former Soviet republic has been hit by mass protests since August, when Lukashenko claimed victory in the country’s presidential elections. Opposition groups, and many international organizations, insist the vote was rigged, and hundreds of thousands have since taken to the streets to demand a new poll.
Lukashenko has consistently written off the unrest as a foreign-sponsored plot, saying his security officials had “managed to take steps to anticipate and thwart a major plan to destabilize Belarus.”“The masks have been ripped off the puppets we have here,” he added, “and the puppet masters are sitting beyond Belarus’s borders.”