Lukashenko contradicts Putin on Crocus City terrorists, threatens to invade Baltics

Lukashenko contradicts Putin on Crocus City terrorists, threatens to invade Baltics
Belarusian President Lukashenko has contradicted Russian President Putin, saying the Crocus City terrorists were headed towards Belarus, not Ukraine. He then added that Belarus was prepared to invade Poland. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews March 27, 2024

In Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s latest bombastic rant, he contradicted Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the four terrorists fleeing the killing spree in the Crocus City Hall mall on March 22 were headed towards Belarus, not Ukraine. He added that Belarus was ready to invade the Baltic states and hook up with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

In his first public comments following the attack, Putin suggested that Ukraine was the mastermind behind the attack that has shocked the Russian public. However, two days later he was forced to walk those remarks back somewhat and admit that Islamic radicals were behind the attack, although he still insisted on a link to Ukraine.

Putin’s main evidence for the Ukrainian link is that the four gunmen were driving south on the so-called Ukraine highway and were arrested in Bryansk, the Russian region that borders Ukraine.


Lukashenko claimed that the militants were actually on their way to Belarus but were thwarted from entering due to “immediate stringent security measures implemented” by Belarusian security services as soon as news of the attack on the Crocus City mall broke.

Lukashenko ignored the fact that if the gunmen were headed for Belarus they would have taken the so-called Belarus highway via Smolensk that leads west from Moscow and crosses the border at Orsha in eastern Belarus.

Escaping into Belarus would have made more sense, as the route from Moscow to Belarus is about 80 km shorter than the route to the Ukrainian border, which is under tight security control due to the war.

Lukashenko said that upon receiving intelligence about the assailants' potential movement towards Belarus through Russia’s Bryansk Oblast, a collaborative decision was made with Russian President Vladimir Putin to fortify the Belarusian section of the border to prevent the suspects escaping.

"As soon as the heads of state received information from special services that the car transporting the terrorists was moving towards Bryansk, an agreement was reached that Belarus would block its section of the alleged criminal movement, while Russia would block its own,” Lukashenko said. "They could not enter Belarus in any way. They understood that. And so they turned around and went to the section of the Ukrainian-Russian border."

As the map shows, the gunmen had already travelled most of the way to Ukraine and were clearly headed for Ukraine, although at the point where they arrested there is a highway that leads to Gomel in Belarus, but this is longest possible route to Belarus, rather than taking the much shorter Belarus highway to Belarus that originates in Moscow.

Attack on Baltics

Lukashenko made these remarks during a visit to Belarus’ western border, where he also threatened the Baltic states with an attack and the possibility of an offensive against the so-called Suwalki Gap, a strategic stretch of land lying between Lithuania and Poland that would be the main route of an invading force aiming to take control of the Baltics. As bne IntelliNews recently reported, Russia could take the Baltics in 48 hours if it were to launch an attack.

Lukashenko was inspecting the military on the increasingly fortified border between Belarus and the EU member states and made the comments that were posted on a government Telegram channel. After part of Russia’s expeditionary forces invaded northern Ukraine from Belarusian territory, Kyiv has invested heavily in fortifying its northern border.

The Suwalki Gap, a sparsely populated region in the north-eastern corner of Poland that is 42 km wide, has long been a security concern for Nato allies, as it is very hard to defend and a surprise attack by Russia or Belarus would be almost impossible to stop.

The Belarusian leader, known for his bombast, has frequently played up the “enemy at the gate” narrative as part of his populist rhetoric. Once again he hinted at Belarusian territorial ambition to take part of Poland.

Alexander Naumenko, the commander of the North-Western Operational Command, assured Lukashenko that the Belarusian military was ready for such an attack.

In the video Lukashenko, holding his pet Pomeranian Spitz dog, asks Naumenko about the width of the Suwalki Gap, which "they [Lithuania?] are always yapping about," Ukrayinska Pravda reported. "They shouldn’t be behaving like this. But now you will have to confront the Baltic republics... And you will take part of Poland," Lukashenko said.

Naumenko told the president that "all actions have been planned, issues of combat readiness are being worked out, and personnel are being trained".

Lukashenko’s remarks follow on from earlier comments in October by Pavel Muraveiko, Deputy Secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, calling for a "breakthrough" to Kaliningrad, which sparked outrage in Lithuania at the time.