Vladimir Putin traveled this monday to belarus to meet with the authoritarian leader of the country, Alexander Lukashenkowhich allowed Russian forces to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine and has close defensive ties to Moscow.
Analysts pointed out that the Kremlin could seek again some military support for its operations in Ukraine. But the winter and Russia’s depleted resources mean no major attack is likely imminent, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
“The russian army capacityincluding reinforced by elements of the Belarusian armed forces, to prepare and execute large-scale mechanized offensives in the coming months remains questionable”, the study center indicated in an analysis published on Sunday.
The institute also concluded that “Lukashenko is unlikely to commit the Belarusian army – which would also have to be re-equipped – in the invasion of Ukraine.”
Belarus, one of Russia’s closest allies, allowed its territory to be used as a launching pad for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but has not directly joined the fighting. Lukashenko has repeatedly said that he has no intention of sending troops from his country to Ukraine.
Russian military units will carry out “tactical exercises” in Belarus, a country bordering Ukraine, the Interfax press agency reported on Monday, citing the Russian Ministry of Defense.
It was not specified when or where the maneuvers will take place, but the announcement came hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Minsk to meet his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko.
“The final evaluation of the capacity and combat fitness of the units will come […] as soon as the battalions finish some tactical exercises,” the Russian Defense Ministry stated, Interfax reported.
Putin’s visit comes 10 months after the Russian offensive in Ukraine began, unleashed from various points, some in Belarusian territory.
In October, Belarus announced the formation of a joint force with Russia, and thousands of Russian servicemen were sent to the former Soviet republic.
On Sunday night, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky stressed that “the protection of the border with Russia and Belarus” was a “constant priority.”
“We prepared for all possible scenarios,” Zelenski said.
For his part, Lukashenko has stated on several occasions that he does not contemplate sending Belarusian military units to Ukraine.
(With information from AP and AFP)