International

Belarus Claims It Prevented Drone Attacks From Lithuania; Vilnius Rejects Allegations

Ivan Tertel, head of the Belarusian Committee for State Security (KGB), told a session of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly that his and other agencies recently carried out security operations, "which made it possible to prevent attacks by combat drones from the territory of Lithuania on objects in Minsk and its suburbs".

AP
Ivan Tertel, head of the Belarusian Committee for State Security (KGB), left, speaks with Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Photo: AP
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A top security official in Belarus claimed on Thursday that the country has prevented attempted drone strikes from Lithuania targeting the Belarusian capital and surrounding areas. Lithuania denied the claim.

Ivan Tertel, head of the Belarusian Committee for State Security (KGB), told a session of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly that his and other agencies recently carried out security operations, "which made it possible to prevent attacks by combat drones from the territory of Lithuania on objects in Minsk and its suburbs".

He did not present evidence for the claim or give any details. He also said that "radicals" in Lithuania and Poland are producing drones to attack Belarus.

The All-Belarusian People's Assembly includes officials, members of local councils, unions and pro-government activists and operates in parallel with the parliament.

Lithuanian military spokesman Gintautas Ciunis told journalists later on Thursday that Tertel's claims were not true. "This is nonsense. I cannot find another word," Ciunis said.

The Lithuanian crisis management centre said in a statement that the comments appeared aimed at a domestic audience in Belarus. It also said they could "be regarded as a continuous hostile provocation and an informational attack against Lithuania, which has nothing to do with reality".

Belarus is a close ally of Russia, which has deployed tactical nuclear weapons, missiles and troops in the country. Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly boasted that Belarus would turn back any attempt by Ukraine or NATO countries to attack it.

Although Belarusian forces have not entered the Russia-Ukraine war, the country has been a springboard for Russian forces that entered Ukraine's north.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, exiled in Lithuania, said on Thursday that nobody aside from the Belarus leadership had heard about a drone attack on Minsk. "It is possible that Lukashenko started believing his own nonsense and disinformation," Tsikhanouskaya added.

The Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved the new national security framework and a military doctrine that were put forward by Lukashenko to regulate the use of Russian nuclear weapons. Those, Lukashenko told the delegates, will allow Belarus "to resist any aggressor and inflict irreparable damage on them".

Political analysts say this is merely rhetoric, and does not indicate plans by the Belarusian leader to get involved in military conflicts.

"Lukashenko is increasing the level of bellicose rhetoric in order to please the Kremlin and receive additional funds to fight the common Western threat," independent Belarusian analyst Valery Karbalevich told AP.

"Belarus has hosted Russian nuclear weapons, changed its military doctrine and now expects payment from the Kremlin for this, and Lukashenko's loud statements should serve as a reminder of this," he said.

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