Belarus claims to have shot down Ukrainian missiles

He said the missiles were intercepted by Belarusian air defense systems earlier this week.

Without providing any evidence of the alleged attack, Lukashenko – a close aide of Russian leader Vladimir Putin – called the act a “provocation”.

“Thank God, the Pantsir anti-aircraft system managed to intercept all missiles launched by Ukraine’s armed forces,” Lukashenko said in remarks published on his presidential website on Saturday.

The Ukrainian military did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment on Lukashenko’s claims.

One of Russia’s closest allies

Formerly under Soviet control until its declaration of sovereignty in 1990, Belarus remains one of Russia’s closest allies and has played a key role in its invasion of Ukraine – despite Lukashenko saying that his country had been “in war” first. was being dragged.

Russian troops began the offensive on February 24, crossing Ukraine from Belarus after months of piling up on the Ukrainian border. In the first days of the attack, Russian Tu-22 “backfire” bombers used Belarusian airspace to launch coordinated cruise missile attacks on targets within Ukraine, and NATO officials told CNN in March That the “vast majority” of Russian air operations in Ukraine are launched from Belarus.

According to Ukraine’s Air Force Command, as recently as last week, six Russian “backfire” bombers flying over Belarusian airspace launched 12 Kh-22 cruise missiles to hit targets in Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy Oblasts. Aims.

Russian President Putin has said sanctions and “unprecedented political and social pressure” from the West are spurring his country’s reunification plans with Belarus.

Meanwhile, the governor of the Russian city of Belgorod – which lies near the border with Ukraine – said at least three people were killed and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the blasts early Sunday.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post that a 10-year-old child was also among the injured.

He said five houses were also destroyed in the blast and 11 apartment buildings and 34 private residential houses were damaged.

Gladkov said the cause of the explosions was under investigation and the area’s air defense systems “probably” worked.

Russian officials have repeatedly accused Ukraine of mounting cross-border attacks – usually on fuel depots and military installations – claims Ukrainian government agencies say are intended to incite “anti-Ukrainian sentiment”.

Ukrainian officials have yet to comment on reports of the blasts.