Belarus, Russia could unite troops in case of threat from the West, says Lukashenko

FILE PHOTO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally of his supporters near the Government House in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus August 16, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday he had agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that their countries could unite their troops in the event of a threat from the West, the Belta state news agency reported.

Lukashenko, who is facing the biggest challenge in his 26 years in power after protests and strikes erupted following a contested Aug. 9 election, added that not a single Russian soldier has yet crossed the border into Belarus.

Earlier on Friday, Lukashenko ordered half of the country’s the army enter combat preparedness in response to what he said were threats from the West.

Reporting by Andrey Makhovsky in Minsk and Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Toby Chopra