Russia and Belarus have officially launched joint military drills notwithstanding Western concerns that Moscow is plotting a major escalation of the conflict within Ukraine.
The exercises are scheduled until the 20th of February, and will center around “suppressing and repelling external aggression,” states Russia’s defence ministry. The soldiers will practise strengthening the Belarus border to block delivery of weapons and ammunition into the country.
The drills have aggravated the pre-existing deeply strained ties between Russia and the West, which has been accusing Moscow of massing approximately 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border for a potential invasion.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the joint military drills a “psychological pressure.” “Today we have enough forces to honourably defend our country,” Zelenskyy stated.
Neither Moscow nor Minsk have disclosed how many troops are participating in the drills, but the US has claimed Russia was planning to dispatch 30,000 personnel to several regions in ex-Soviet Belarus. Responding to Western concerns, the Kremlin has insisted that it has no intention of leaving the troops permanently on Belarusian territory.