Belarus to host military drills with Russia on Ukraine border
Nato and Kiev accuse Russia of building up its armed forces near Ukraine and have warned of a possible attack. The Kremlin denies having any invasion plans.
Belarus and Russia held training exercises near the Belarusian border with Poland earlier this month amid the ongoing migrant crisis along the frontier that Europe accuses Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating.
Belarus’ defence minister Viktor Khrenin said the country would hold military drills with Russia in the “medium-term” but gave no dates.
“We see troop formations around our state borders… We can only be concerned by the militarisation of our neighbouring countries, which is why are forced to plan measures in response,” the ministerial website quoted Khrenin saying.
Lukashenko on Monday said he would back Russia in any conflict with Ukraine, saying, “it is clear whose side Belarus will be on”.
He was more neutral in 2014 when Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and Moscow backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
Belarus still recognises Crimea as Ukrainian territory.
Kiev claims around Russian 115,000 troops are deployed near its borders, including on the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told the media that the west should be ready to impose sanctions on Russia if it invades.
He called for more military support for Ukraine and for western countries to urge Russia to avoid any conflict.
Ukraine estimates that there are around Russian 115,000 troops amassed near its borders, including forces in Russian-occupied Crimea.
“If Russia decides to undertake a military operation, things will literally be happening in the blink of an eye,” Kuleba said. “The time frame in which to act is the coming months.”
Some observers have played down the risk of war.
Gwynne Dyer wrote in The Hill that it would be “colossally stupid” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine “and he is not a stupid man”. “He would end up occupying a country of 45 million people most of whom resent the Russian occupation so much that a big, long guerrilla war would be almost inevitable,” Dyer argued.
Russian President Vladimir Putin oversees joint “Zapad” exercises with Belarus in September. Picture credit: Wikimedia