Russia, Belarus extending military exercises
Russia and Belarus will be extending military drills that were set to end on Sunday, a Belarusian defense official said, as fears that Moscow will invade Ukraine rise.
Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said that military leaders from his country and Russia decided to “continue checking” joint force readiness due to “increase in military activity” near the Belarusian border, The Washington Post reported.
Khrenin said the decision had been made in response to the “aggravation of the situation” in eastern Ukraine. According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, up to 190,000 Russian troops are gathered along Ukraine’s border, around 30,000 of which are believed to be in Belarus..
Hundreds of artillery shells went off in eastern Ukraine along the contact lines between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists on Sunday, leading to thousands of Ukrainians in the area evacuating. This event has sparked fears that Russia could use the moment as a justification for invading Ukraine, as Western governments have repeatedly warned and Moscow has continued to deny.
President Biden said last week that he is “convinced” that Russia is planning on invading Ukraine. The U.S. has continued to hold off on issuing sanctions, saying they would go into effect the moment Russia invades Ukraine.
However, Reuters noted that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday expressed doubts that sanctions would be enough to deter the Kremlin.
In an interview, Johnson said that sanctions “may not be enough to deter an irrational actor and we have to accept at the moment that Vladimir Putin is possibly thinking illogically about this and doesn’t see the disaster ahead.”
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