Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has vowed to join forces with Russia if Ukraine attacks Belarus.

In a rare press conference with foreign journalists in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, Lukashenko said Belarus is “ready to fight” alongside Russian forces against Ukraine.

“I’m ready to fight together with the Russians from the territory of Belarus in one case only: if so much as one soldier from (Ukraine) comes to our territory with a gun to kill my people,” Lukashenko said, The Moscow Times reported.

The Belarusian president also warned other countries allied with Ukraine that their response would be the “most cruel” if they launched an attack against his country.

Despite his repeated threats of joining Russian forces in the conflict, Lukahsneko said, “I do not plan to send my people, my soldiers (there).”

In the borders of the E.U. and Ukraine, Belarusian Special Forces are preparing for a possible escalation of the Russian-led war.

Belarusian forces are simulating forest combat while paratroopers practice jumping from an aircraft.

“We are ready to fulfill any tasks, including the most difficult ones if we have to,” Vadim Lukashevich, the Deputy Commander of the Special Operations Forces of Belarus, said.

In the Belarusian city of Brest, just two miles away from Poland, military officials insist that the situation remains stable. But they are also preparing for the worst amidst the “sharply changing conditions.”

Belarusian military staff are estimated to be between 60,000 and 70,000.

Russia and Belarus grew closer even before the start of the war in Ukraine.

In the weeks before Russia commenced its “special military operation,” the two countries carried out joint military exercises close to the border with Ukraine.

Lukashenko then allowed Russia to make Belarus their staging point before the invasion of Ukraine.

In October, Lukashenko announced that Belarus was forming a regional joint force with Russia, citing the growing tensions on his country’s southern border with Ukraine.

Last month, Russia and Belarus launched joint air force exercises in which every Belarusian military airfield was used.

According to the Belarusian Ministry of Defense, the exercises would showcase joint air patrols along their border, airborne landings and support operations for ground troops.

Amid the growing cooperation between the two neighboring countries, Putin denied speculations that he plans to absorb Belarus.

During his visit to Minsk in December, Putin said that Russia and Belarus were “united by a common history and spiritual values.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, shown here in Sochi earlier this year, will meet for the first time since Belarus forced a Ryanair jet to land in Minsk and arrested an opposition activist onboard.Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin

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