Ukraine foresaw that Russian troops wouldn’t leave Belarus after ‘drills,’ says Ukraine’s defense minister
Ukraine predicted that Russian troops would not leave Belarus after the conclusion of “joint drills” with the Belarusian army, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Feb. 21.
The drills, called “Union Resolve-2022,” were previously unscheduled military exercises announced by both the Russian Federation and Belarus, and have been held on Belarusian territory.
Reznikov’s comment came after Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin announced on Feb. 20 that Russia and Belarus had decided to extend the joint drills taking place in the territory of Belarus due to “the increase in military activity near the external borders of the Union State and the escalation in the Donbas.”
This is in contrast to earlier reports from Belarusian officials that “not a single Russian soldier” would remain in Belarus following the conclusion of the “exercises.”
“They (troops) have obviously not been traveling from the Far East for several weeks just to train for 10 days and go back,” Reznikov said.
He added Ukraine was also not surprised by newly-announced “sudden” drills in Transnistria, an unrecognized breakaway state that is internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Moldova.
“We have taken appropriate response measures,” the defense minister said.
Russia has been massing troops at the border since late October.
The U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Michael Carpenter, said on Feb. 21 that Russia has arrayed between 169,000 and 190,000 troops on the Russian-Ukrainian and Belarusian-Ukrainian border, and in the temporarily occupied territories of Crimea and the Donbas.
Russia is also conducting drills near the eastern borders of Ukraine, in the annexed Crimea, in Belarus, as well as naval exercises in the Black Sea.
Russian proxy forces in the Donbas have significantly stepped up the number of attacks on Ukrainian positions since Feb. 17, with over 136 attacks occurring on Feb. 19, resulting in the deaths of two Ukrainian service members.
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