Russian ally launches surprise military drills
The Belarusian Defense Ministry has announced a snap combat readiness check of the country’s armed forces. A message on its Telegram channel on Tuesday said that President Alexander Lukashenko had ordered the exercise.
Belarus, which is one of Russia’s closest allies, shares a border with Ukraine, and also with NATO member states Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The drills “will be of complex character,” the post noted, explaining that the “armed forces will have to move into the designated areas in the shortest possible time.” The military personnel will also need to establish combat positions there, “organize security and defense,” and build crossings over the Neman and Berezina rivers.
The military also warned that traffic would be temporarily halted in several regions due to the movement of hardware and troops along the roads.
In another post, the ministry published a few photos, said to depict members of one of the units participating in the drills.
Earlier this month, Lukashenko announced that Belarusian and Russian forces were “preparing like a single force, a single army.”
The Belarusian president added that neither Minsk, nor Moscow “want war,” but are working together to be able to “repel any aggression.”
Back in October, the two countries announced the creation of a joint force in Belarus, citing NATO’s increased military activity on the country’s border.
Lukashenko explained at the time that while Belarusian service members would make up the bulk of the force, “more than one thousand Russian soldiers” would also be part of it.
Minsk also accused neighboring Ukraine of “planning to conduct a strike” on Belarus – something Kiev has vehemently denied. Officials there, in turn, have repeatedly alleged that the Kremlin is trying to drag its ally into the fighting in Ukraine.
Speaking during a government meeting earlier this month, Lukashenko assessed the situation on the country’s borders as “tense.”
He noted, however, that “so far we have been able to deter a potential adversary from using military force against Belarus.” Nevertheless, he called for vigilance as it was important “not to miss … signs that would indicate preparations for an aggression against our country.”
The Belarusian president cited an alleged uptick in the number of “provocations” and claimed that Ukraine was trying to “draw troops from NATO member states” into its conflict with Russia.