Ukrainian defense minister believes too few Russian troops are in Belarus to mount attack on Kyiv
Ukraine has confirmed there are 9,000 Russian soldiers in Belarus at present, along with their military equipment, but this force is not strong enough to threaten Kyiv, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Feb. 21.
“According to our data, there are 9,000 representatives of the Russian Armed Forces there, plus equipment, including weapons, etc.” Reznikov said.
“But for those who say that there will be an attack on Kyiv from the Belarusian side with such a contingent... I'm sorry, that’s ludicrous."
For the past week, Russia and Belarus have claimed to be conducting previously unscheduled military exercises, dubbed “Union Resolve-2022.” Some observers have speculated that these exercises are serving as cover for Russian troops staging for a further invasion of Ukraine. Given that troops are also stationed near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Russia,as well as in Crimea, Ukraine has been surrounded on three sides by Russian forces – in the north, east, and south.
According to the minister, Russia is conducting these exercises "to threaten us, to frighten us, to create a situation of such an encirclement."
“That’s why exercises have begun in Transnistria, so that we all tense up, divert our resources, so that we lose focus,” Reznikov noted, referring to recently announced exercises of Russian troops in the Russian-backed breakaway statelet of Transnistria to the south-west of Ukraine.
Since the end of Oct. 2021, Russia has been massing troops next to Ukraine’s borders. 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.
In parallel, the Russian Federation is conducting military exercises near the eastern borders of Ukraine, in the occupied Crimea, in Belarus and in the Black Sea.
Amid the deployment of Russian troops to the border of Ukraine, Russian proxy forces have stepped up shelling in the Donbas. On Feb. 19, the proxy forces violated the ceasefire in the Donbas at least 136 times. Two Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the shelling, and five sustained injuries.
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