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Lukashenko: Belarus discovered Western-linked 'terrorist' cells

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (File photo by Reuters)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ordered the closure of the border with Ukraine in a bid to halt what he referred to as an influx of arms to coup plotters detected by the nation’s security forces, according to state news agency BelTA.

"A huge amount of weapons is coming from Ukraine to Belarus. That's why I ordered border-security forces to fully close the border with Ukraine," Lukashenko told a gathering on Friday, marking the nation’s Independence Day.

"They have crossed the line. We cannot forgive them," Lukashenko added, insisting that the US, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine were behind the alleged insurgency scheme.

The measure also marks the intensification of a continuing standoff between Minsk and Western governments after Belarusian security forces diverted a Lithuania-bound Ryanair passenger flight to the capital city and arrested a top dissident, charged with inciting post-election violence in the country.

US, Canada and European Union countries have imposed sanctions on Belarus to punish the country for the action, with the EU and Ukraine also banning Belarus-registered flights from entering their airspace.

The Belarusian president said he had ordered a purge across the country and that EU-linked rebel groups plotting the coup had been discovered across Belarus.

Lukashenko blamed Germany, vowing to ask Chancellor Angela Merkel for answers over the provocation.

“After wrapping up counterintelligence activities today, we will raise questions not with some Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, but to the chancellor herself and some other top officials of Germany,” he said.

The coup plot, he said, involved a “combat reserve” of 2,500 individuals that participated in a Telegram channel called "Belarusian Self-Defense Units."

“This is their combat reserve. We know them by sight. And, importantly: the owner of this chat is a German national, a Mr. de Hoffman, a former citizen of Russia and Ukraine,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

He accused the group of plotting to destroy logging equipment in forestry enterprises, saying the volunteer leading the campaign has been intercepted and captured by Belarus’ elite KGB Alpha Group law enforcement units.

The sleeper cells sought to sabotage the Russian Navy communications center in Vileyka, northwestern Belarus, which links Russian Navy headquarters and nuclear submarines on duty in the Atlantic, Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian president said he had discussed the matter with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a recent telephone conversation.

"All participants in this terrorist act, including those working to organize and carry it out, were found and arrested in the space of two days,” he said. 

Belarus shares a border with Ukraine in the south. It also borders Poland and Lithuania in the west, Latvia in the north, and Russia in the east.

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