Moscow. The Russian and Belarusian armies began a 10-day exercise in Belarus on Thursday, amid tensions between Russia and Western countries over Ukraine and ongoing diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis.
The Russian-Belarusian exercises “are carried out with the aim of preparing to stop and repel external aggression as part of a defensive operation,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The movement of soldiers was denounced by Ukraine as a means of “psychological pressure” by the Russian government, which has concentrated more than 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine’s borders since November.
“We believe that the accumulation of troops near our borders is a means of psychological pressure from our neighbors,” Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky was quoted as saying in a presidential statement.
France considered that the maneuvers are “a gesture of great violence” that “concerns”. “There is a lot of maneuvering, particularly on the border with Ukraine,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on France Inter public radio.
Russia is accused of being willing to carry out a new military operation against Ukraine, after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, accusations rejected by the Kremlin, which says it wants to guarantee its security in the face of the behavior it considers hostile from Kiev and NATO.
At the diplomatic level, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will receive the leaders of the Baltic countries, former Soviet member republics of NATO, in Berlin on Thursday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced the dispatch of 350 additional troops to Poland as part of a NATO mission, will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels and then travel to Warsaw, while his foreign minister, Liz Truss, is in Moscow.
The Russian Ministry of Defense indicated that the military exercises will be held until February 20 in five military camps, four air bases and “several places” in Belarus, particularly in the Brest region, which borders Ukraine.
The Russian and Belarusian militaries have not disclosed the number of troops taking part in the exercises, but the United States has said Russia planned to send 30,000 troops to various regions of Belarus.
In a statement on Thursday, the Russian army specified only that S-400 anti-aircraft systems were deployed in the Brest region.
Fears are growing that Russian live-fire naval exercises in the Black Sea could amount to a de facto blockade of Ukraine’s southern coast, which itself could be part of preparations for an invasion. The alerts will be in effect from February 13 until February 19. Via GraphicNews.