Russia’s military drills in Belarus begin

February 11, 2022

Russias military drills in Belarus begin

Russia’s military drills in Belarus have begun amid ongoing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO has described the “Allied Resolve drills” as Russia’s biggest deployment to ex-Soviet state Belarus since the Cold War.

Up to 30,000 Russian troops, as well as almost all of the Belarusian armed forces, are taking part in the drills. They come at a time when Russia has also amassed forces along its own border with Ukraine.

Russia has denied its planning to invade Ukraine as a global diplomatic standoff continues over the country which is located between Russia and the EU.

What are the drills?

According to Russia’s defense ministry, the drills will take place at five military training areas over the course of 10 days, mostly in western and southwestern Belarus, near the country’s borders with Poland and Ukraine.

The Russian maneuvers in Belarus involved thousands of troops and sophisticated weapons systems such as S-400 surface-to-air missiles and Su-35 fighter jets.

The Russian defense ministry said the six ships arrived at the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Moscow has said the troops will withdraw after the exercises, which it said will rehearse “repelling external aggression,” and denied having any plans to attack Ukraine.

But the accumulation of the forces in Belarus is just part of an extraordinary military buildup around Ukraine that has left Western leaders scrambling to avoid a fresh conflict on European soil.

U.S., NATO concerned over drills

The U.S. described the drills as escalatory.

NATO has also expressed concerns over the exercises Secretory-general Jens Stoltenberg said the deployment of troops and military hardware “takes place under the disguise of an exercise, but it integrates very much the Russian and Belarusian forces.”

U.S. Department of Defense Spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anton T. Semelroth told CNBC that there needs to be more transparency over military exercises.

‘Dangerous moment’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to Brussels and Warsaw in support of NATO allies.

Johnson visited NATO headquarters where he sought to underline European solidarity and reject Moscow’s demand for a guarantee that Ukraine would never be allowed to join NATO.

Mr. Johnson added he did not think Moscow had yet decided whether to attack.

“But that does not mean that it is impossible that something absolutely disastrous could happen very soon indeed,” he said.

Russia says it’s facing ‘threats’

Russia has defended the drills, and its deployment of troops along its border with Ukraine, saying it has a right to move its troops wherever it likes on its own territory.

Al also said that West has widely ignored its security concerns in rebuffing its demands over Ukraine and NATO, and has accused the West of creating “hysteria” over Ukraine.

Looking for peaceful path

Stoltenberg told reporters he sent a letter to Lavrov inviting Russia for more rounds of meeting to “find a diplomatic way forward.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Russia had been taking escalatory steps recently and that the U.S. hopes that would change.

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