By FARAI MUTSAKA
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday that his country is willing to offer more assistance to close ally Russia in its war against Ukraine.
But Lukashenko stressed that Russia does not need “any help” right now.
“However, if our Russian brothers need help, we are always ready to offer such assistance,” he said on a state visit to the southern African nation of Zimbabwe — which is also close to Russia.
Lukashenko was speaking through a translator in a brief response to a question on whether his country is under pressure to step up its support for Russia in the nearly yearlong war against Ukraine.
Lukashenko did not specify what that help would entail.
Belarus allowed Russia to stage part of its invasion from its territory last February and has also been a launching pad for Russian missiles into Ukraine. But Belarus hasn’t committed any of its troops to the war.
Russia and Belarus have engaged in joint military exercises on Belarusian territory this month and Ukraine says it has maintained forces along its border with Belarus to fend off any potential invasion.
The Pentagon says that it hasn’t seen any Russian troop movement in Belarus that would indicate an imminent attack.
Also, analysts have said that if Belarus’ small and inexperienced military gets involved, the additional troops could help Moscow cut off some key transportation corridors but it’s unlikely to significantly help Russia’s position.
Lukashenko arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday in a visit that seeks to cement economic and political ties between two countries.
The visit, according to Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry, is aimed at boosting “strong cooperation in political, economic, mining, agriculture and disaster risk management.”
Belarus has provided Zimbabwe with farm equipment such as tractors, combine harvesters and trucks under a deal worth tens of millions of dollars following Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s visit to Minsk in 2019.
On Tuesday, the two countries signed several agreements ranging from agriculture to taxation and education.
Lukashenko also offered to sell potash fertilizer to Zimbabwe, adding that despite Western sanctions, Belarus “was able to sell big amounts of potash fertilizer.”
“There are states ready to cooperate with Belarus,” he said.
Lukashenko’s visit to Zimbabwe comes soon after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s latest trip to Africa. Lavrov visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola and Eritrea last week, pulling on some of Moscow’s historic ties to the continent to rally support for Russia’s position and blame the West for the war in Ukraine.
(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi): Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, left, poses with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the State House in Harare, Tuesday, Jan, 31, 2023. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has arrived in Zimbabwe to pomp and fanfare, in a visit that seeks to cement economic and political ties between the two countries that are both close allies of Russia.