UKRAINE: On Monday, Russia and Belarus started conducting joint military drills, which incited concerns in Kiev and the West that Moscow would use its ally to launch a fresh ground invasion in Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine using its neighbour Belarus as a springboard in February last year.
According to the Belarusian defence ministry, the two allies started combined army exercises on Monday with a “mechanised brigade subdivision” and will undertake air force drills from January 16 to February 1 using all Belarus military airfields.
Russia-Belarus defensive military exercises
Minsk, Belarus’s capital, said that the air exercises are defensive and will stay out of the conflict.
Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, was quoted as saying in a message on the Telegram app of the Belarusian defence ministry on Sunday, “We’re exercising discipline and patience in order to keep our gunpowder dry.”
Muraveyko claimed that the situation on the nation’s southern border with Ukraine was “not very calm” and that Ukraine has been “provoking” Belarus.
“We are prepared for any provocative measures by Ukraine,” he continued.
Moscow denies exerting pressure on Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, to become more involved in the dispute in Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week that Ukraine must be ready at its border with Belarus because Belarus has frequently threatened to attack the country.
Since the invasion began, Belarus has conducted many military exercises, both on its own and in coordination with Russia. Along with Moscow, Minsk has provided the exercises with military equipment.
Numerous fighters, helicopters, and military transport planes have reportedly arrived in Belarus since the start of the year, including eight fighters and four cargo planes on Sunday alone, according to unofficial military Telegram monitoring channels.
The only information provided by the Belarusian defence ministry was that “units” of the Russian air force were entering Belarus.
On Sunday, Ukraine saw little hope of recovering any more survivors from the wreckage of an apartment building in the city of Dnipro, a day after a significant Russian missile attack devastated the complex, with many people likely having perished.
The residential building was hit by a Russian Kh-22 missile, which is infamous for its imprecision and inability to be shot down by Ukrainian air defences, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. The Soviet-era missile designed to destroy warships was developed during the Cold War.
Moscow has been using missiles and drones to strike Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure since October, causing massive blackouts and disruptions to running water and central heating.
Following the Dnipro attack, Zelenskiy urged Western allies to send more arms to put an end to “Russian terror” and attacks on civilian targets.
Britain promised to send 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks and further advanced artillery support in the upcoming weeks, following France and Poland in making similar promises.
The first transfer of tanks from the West to Ukraine is likely to be viewed as an escalation of the conflict in Moscow. The tanks, according to the Russian Embassy in London, would prolong the conflict.
Russia’s invasion, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation,” has already resulted in millions of people being uprooted and countless cities being left in ruins.
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