Russia has started to move its troops towards Belarus for joint military exercises and live-fire drills as fears increase of an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
Train and road convoys of armoured vehicles have been arriving after president Alexander Lukashenko announced upcoming war games with Russian forces next month.
The military exercises named United Resolve in Ukraine’s northern neighbour are taking place at the same time as Russia continues to amass troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, setting the scene for a potential invasion.
Military analysts have suggested Russia could send its forces through Belarus to stretch out Ukraine’s defences, taking advantage of their shared 700-mile border.
Lukashenko and his security henchmen have pointed to an alleged build-up of Ukrainian forces near his border, suggesting this justifies a stronger military presence.
Russia has started to move its troops towards Belarus for joint military exercises and live-fire drills as fears increase of an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine
Russia is continuing to amass troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, setting the scene for a potential invasion
Train and road convoys of armoured vehicles have been arriving after president Alexander Lukashenko announced upcoming war games
The strongman has formed closer ties with Vladimir Putin in response to pressure from the West over his autocratic regime, publicly supporting the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a Russian group monitoring military movements, said more military hardware from the Russian far east is expected in Belarus.
Two S-400 mobile surface to air missile battalions, a Pantsir-S battalion and 12 Su-35 fighters will also be transferred for exercises, it was revealed today.
Meanwhile, Britain last night sent troops and hi-tech weapons to Ukraine in a bid to thwart the feared Russian invasion.
Two RAF transporters flew badly needed missile systems to Kiev’s forces, and troops aboard the planes will remain in Ukraine to teach their counterparts how to combat Russian tanks.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the deployment came ‘in light of the increasingly threatening behaviour from Russia’.
The weapons were transported on RAF C-17 planes which took a longer route over Danish rather than German airspace.
Germany has refused to provide Ukraine with weapons, with Chancellor Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying ‘we expect clear steps from Russia to deescalate the situation,’ adding that ‘military aggression against Ukraine would entail serious political and economic consequences.’
Putin has justified the war games with Belarus because of alleged Nato interference in Poland and the Baltic states which he says threatens Russia.
Lukashenko said: ‘Why are we and Russia being reproached for holding manoeuvres, exercises and so forth when you’ve come from far away?’
Putin has justified the war games because of alleged Nato interference in Poland and the Baltic states which he says threatens Russia
‘Planned’ Russian tank war games shown on video and involving 2,000-plus soldiers were staged at the Kirillovsky and Luzhsky training grounds
As the Bundestag continues to oppose involvement, flightpath tracking data shows how British aircraft are avoiding German airspace en route to ferrying anti-armour weaponry to Ukraine
Meanwhile, ‘planned’ Russian tank war games shown on video and involving 2,000-plus soldiers were staged at the Kirillovsky and Luzhsky training grounds in Leningrad region.
These drills involved T-72B3 tanks, AGS-17 automatic grenade launchers, RPG-7V grenade launchers, AK-74M assault rifles and SVD-M sniper rifles, according to the Russian defence ministry.
This ‘combat training’ in Russia’s Western military district, which borders Ukraine, involved ‘methods of covert movement’ in winter conditions.
In Orenburg, special forces with machine guns on camouflaged ‘Tiger’ military vehicles were seen in separate assault drills destroying a mock enemy in trenches.
Elsewhere, in the Southern military district – into which annexed Crimea has been incorporated – reconnaissance troops conducted mountain training at the Darial mountain training centre in North Ossetia, close to Georgia.
‘The servicemen are trained to quickly navigate the terrain, choose firing positions,’ said platoon commander senior lieutenant Nikolay Ivanov.
Lukashenko and his security henchmen have pointed to an alleged build-up of Ukrainian forces near his border
‘We are improving rapid movement, and every shot is right on target.’
These war games include four battalion tactical exercises with live fire and the use of rocket and cannon artillery and aviation.
Meanwhile, forces were reportedly seen moving westward in Yekaterinburg and Ufa, both in the Urals.
On the movements to Belarus, Alexander Volfovich, head of the country’s security council, said in explaining the arrival of Russian forces that ‘the number of armies of neighbouring countries is increasing, the intensity of military exercises.
‘And this is happening not only in Poland and Lithuania, which are members of the NATO alliance – their militarisation is expected.’
He claimed there was a buildup of troops also in Ukraine which ‘does not lag behind them to please its Western curators’.
Negotiations last week between Russian and Western diplomats, who were hoping to defuse the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, ended inconclusively
This ‘combat training’ in Russia’s Western military district, which borders Ukraine, involved ‘methods of covert movement’ in winter conditions
He claimed that ‘the aggressive and destructive policy pursued by the governments of neighbouring states does not in the least contribute to the preservation and development of good neighbourly relations.
‘There will be a provocation and the irreparable will happen.
‘In such a situation, we must be ready to act immediately and decisively – both independently and jointly as part of a regional grouping of troops (forces), to make sure of its effectiveness in modern conditions.’
New Russian ambassador to Belarus, Boris Gryzlov, a senior politician and close ally of Vladimir Putin, said: ‘We see that the buildup of NATO personnel and military equipment literally at our doorstep continues without cease…. including heavy weaponry.’
He warned: ‘Of course, it won’t go unnoticed.’
‘We are very thorough in our approach to border safety matters.
‘Joint Russian-Belarusian patrols of the Union State’s aerial borders is conducted on a regular basis, including with the use of Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers and Su-30 multirole fighter aircraft.’
He denied that the joint military drills posed a threat to the West.
‘Certainly, at the news about any of our drills, the Western propaganda machine becomes active using all sorts of false information about pseudo-threats,’ he claimed.
‘This has already happened many times.
‘However, the authors of these fake news items have always been put to shame: Russian and Belarusian servicemen clearly and consistently demonstrated their training and aced their drills after which they returned to their permanent duty stations.’
The exercises are due from February 10 to 20.
With tension high, Russian inspectors were today visiting a military facility in Britain under the 2011 Vienna Document on security and confidence-building measures, said the head of Moscow’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Centre, Sergey Ryzhkov.
‘The inspection will take place on January 18, 2021, and will continue for one day,’ he said.
‘Inspectors will visit a military facility in the United Kingdom, at its usual peacetime location.’