Russia sends troops to Belarus for war games

Russian troops take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Dec. 14, 2021.
Associated Press/File

Russian officials on Tuesday said Moscow is sending troops to Belarus for joint military drills, a move that will place more Kremlin troops and equipment near Ukraine as Western nations fear an invasion. 

Russia and Belarus will participate in drills involving exercises to “thwart and repel a foreign aggression,” according to Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, as reported by The Associated Press

Russia, which has already begun moving its troops and equipment for the war games — to include a dozen Su-35 fighter jets — expects to have its forces in place in the second week of February, with the drills to take place Feb. 10-20, according to Fomin. 

Later Tuesday, when asked whether the Pentagon had assessed the movements to Belarus, press secretary John Kirby said he would not comment on the operations and exercises of another country and that the Russians “can certainly speak for themselves in that.”  

Kirby added that officials “continue to see a sizable force presence by the Russian armed forces in the western part of their country, around the northeastern border with Ukraine,” which “continues to be concerning to us.”

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have reached new heights following a series of talks last week among Russia, the U.S. and NATO that failed to reach any agreements. 

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia is laying the groundwork to launch an attack, which could come at any time as roughly 100,000 Kremlin troops have amassed near the countries’ border. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken hopes to de-escalate such tensions when he meets with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Geneva on Friday. 

But Washington is also bracing for the worst, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. believes that Russia could carry out an attack on Ukraine “at any point.” 

Russia, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied it intends to attack Ukraine — as it did before it annexed Crimea in 2014 — and that it is responding to unspecified aggressive actions from NATO nations.  

Moscow has also demanded that NATO guarantee it will not expand to Ukraine or other former Soviet countries or position its forces and weapons there. 

Fomin did not say how many troops and armaments Moscow would deploy for the war games, but Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said the drills will take place on his country’s western border and in the south, where it shares a border with Ukraine.  

Tags Alexander Fomin Antony Blinken Belarus Jen Psaki John Kirby Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Russia–Ukraine relations Russo-Ukrainian War Sergey Lavrov Ukraine Ukraine-Russia border Ukraine-Russia conflict

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