Russia deployed more forces to Belarus on Wednesday in preparation for joint military exercises set to be carried out next month as tensions between it and NATO continue to flare due to the buildup of soldiers along the Ukrainian border.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it had deployed a paratrooper unit to Belarus, one day after artillery forces and marines were moved in for the upcoming exercises, Reuters reported. The ministry also said that it would be moving Su-35 fighter jets into Belarus.
As Reuters noted, this buildup of Russian military forces in Belarus creates a possible front for an attack against Ukraine, which borders Belarus to the south. Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv is about 100 miles away from the Belarusian border.
Russian artillery forces are also set to begin firing practice on Wednesday, the ministry said.
News of the buildup in Belarus comes as negotiators from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany meet in Paris to hold “Normandy format” talks regarding the military buildup at Ukraine’s border. Though Russia has repeatedly denied that it will invade Ukraine, Western countries have warned of severe sanctions if it invades the former Soviet republic.
Last week, the U.S. allowed NATO allies to send American-made weapons into Ukraine in order to “expedite security assistance” to the country.
“We are in close touch with our Ukrainian partners and our NATO Allies on this and are utilizing all available security cooperation tools to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression,” a State Department spokesperson said.