The Belarusian defense ministry announced Monday that it will begin conducting live-fire drills and anti-aircraft guided missile launches with Russian troops that are mustering in Belarusian territory as part of the joint grouping announced by Putin earlier this month.
The first wave of Russian forces arrived in Belarus Saturday as part of the joint grouping of Russian and Belarusian soldiers. Belarus has suggested that Russian troops will comprise less than 9,000 troops.
According to the Belarusian military, “Military units from the formations are planned to be deployed at four training ranges of the Republic of Belarus in the eastern and central part of the country, after which they will start conducting combat training activities.”
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While few details were released about the joint grouping exercises in the initial announcement, Ukraine and its Western allies view the buildup of troops on Ukraine’s Northern border as yet another indication of Russia’s escalation of the war.
This is not the first time Russia has held “training exercises” in Belarus. The last time the two countries held joint training drills in Belarus was in the weeks leading up to the February 24 invasion of Ukraine. This time the live-fire drills come a week after Russian forces inflicted heavy missile and drone attacks on Ukraine in response to damage caused to the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea with mainland Russia earlier this month.
Also of concern is that the joint grouping’s live-fire exercises come as NATO starts its annual nuclear exercises in the North Sea. The concern is that Belarus and Russia could be mimicking NATO’s drills with their own.
According to an aide to the Belarusian defense ministry, Valery Revenko, “Thousands of Russian troops will be arriving in Belarus with some 170 tanks, up to 200 armored vehicles, and up to 100 artillery pieces. The troops will be hosted as part of the recently created joint military force.”
While it is still unclear what exactly the Russian-Belarusian joint grouping intends to do, the movement of both troops and equipment into Belarus is concerning to both Ukraine and NATO that Putin has enlisted the assistance of Lukashenko in the possible escalation of the war.
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