Russia and Belarus launched joint military drills Thursday despite concerns in Western countries that Moscow is plotting a major escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.
The exercises, scheduled to continue until February 20 in Belarus, had begun and would center around “suppressing and repelling external aggression,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement.
Soldiers would practice beefing up sections of the Belarus border to block the delivery of weapons and ammunition into the country, among other scenarios, it said.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was in Moscow Thursday for talks with her Russian counterpart to urge the Kremlin not to attack or face “massive consequences” from Western sanctions.
Moscow and Minsk have not disclosed how many troops are participating in the drills, but the United States has said Russia was planning to dispatch 30,000 troops personnel to several regions in ex-Soviet Belarus.
— Intelsky (@Intel_sky) February 9, 2022
Responding to Western concerns, the Kremlin has insisted that it has no intention of leaving the troops permanently on Belarusian territory.