Over the next two months, Belarusian and Russian troops will conduct exercises near the Belarus–Ukraine border. The manoeuvres will take place in two stages, Russian media reports with reference to self-proclaimed “president” of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka.
“We have agreed with President Putin that we should conduct joint exercises on the southern borders, the Belarus–Ukraine border in the near future … We are still working on these plans,” Lukashenka said.
He added that the first stage will definitely be held in winter.
The day before, the press service of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation reported that more than 10,000 service members of the Russian Army started drills at the training areas of the Southern Military District bordering Ukraine.
It is noted that the combat coordination of the units was organised at more than 30 all-military training areas.
At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council that the promise of NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia is a dance on a volcano. He also recalled the events in Georgia in 2008.
“The Bucharest summit decision on that Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO members is a bomb in the construction of European security. Back in August 2008, an explosion took place… Those who repeat mechanically the Bucharest theses and say that third countries have no right to express their position on NATO enlargement – these people dance on a volcano,” said the Russian minister.
He stressed that the transformation of Russia’s neighbours into a ground for confrontation with it, the deployment of NATO forces in the immediate vicinity of strategically important areas for Russia’s security is categorically unacceptable.
Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president’s spokesman, also joined the hostile rhetoric, noting that the Kremlin regards Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s statements about his intention to return Crimea as a direct threat.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said that the United States will use “best practices” and act jointly with the international community in case of Russia’s direct aggression against Ukraine. The Pentagon chief stressed that “at best, we will not see the Soviet Union invading Ukraine,” referring to Russia as the former Soviet Union.