Russian President Vladimir Putin said he discussed Belarus’ interest in having access to the Baltic Sea during a phone call with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.
“Just today we spoke with the President of Belarus about this. Our Belarusian friends are interested in being present in the Baltic, interested in developing their own port facilities. You know I support it too,” Putin said at a ceremony for a new Russian ferry, which he attended virtually.
Belarus is a landlocked country, so it’s unclear what practical steps Putin and Russia might take to provide access to the Baltic Sea. However, Russia has a customs union with Belarus and shares a long common border.
NATO’s Baltic members – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are among the most concerned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This week, a Ukrainian government official told CNN that Ukrainian intelligence indicated that Belarus was “ready to perhaps participate directly” in the invasion.
So far, however, U.S. officials have not seen Belarusian troops “preparing to enter Ukraine” or “whether they are moving or are in Ukraine,” a senior U.S. defense official said on Monday. , adding that the forces inside Ukraine are Russian.
The White House on Wednesday detailed a new list of economic measures imposed on Russia and Belarus, condemning Belarus for “enabling Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“I have asked you to provide all possible assistance. This applies to various places, points, structures where our Belarusian friends could fulfill these options. I won’t go into details now, you know them,” Putin also said during his address. “They are important not only for Belarus, but also for us because it is about the development of our infrastructure, an increase in the transport of goods on our coasts, for our country. Accordingly, the advantages of Belarus will extend to the Russian economy. We are also interested in this, so I ask you to support all these initiatives.
A province of Russia, Kaliningrad, is located between Poland and Lithuania along the Baltic Sea coast.