Russia conducts military exercises with Belarus.
Russia and Belarus have begun military drills along Belarus's border with Ukraine, as part of a 10-day practice considered as a crucial component of the Kremlin's hostile stance toward its neighbor. The exercises, would include up to 30,000 Russian troops and also virtually all of Belarus' military services. They arrive at a period when Russia has also bolstered its military along its frontier with Ukraine and in the occupied Crimean peninsula.
Much of the drilling equipment has traveled thousands of kilometers across Russia. Russia's military department confirmed the activation of most of its S-400 weapons systems in Belarus close to the Ukrainian borderline. Although the Kremlin has stated that Russian forces will return home following the drills, European officials remain wary. Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, stated, 'The concentration of soldiers near the frontier is mental stress from our neighbors.' Ukraine has reacted with ten days of its drills. Ukraine's ground forces commander, Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, claimed 10,000 troops were engaged in the drills. 'We have purposefully shifted military training toward the most hazardous lines of prospective enemy assault,' he said.
The drills will include Javelin anti-tank missiles, which the US recently provided to Kyiv, as well as British NLAW anti-tank weapons, according to Ukraine's defense minister. Russia is making preparations for missile launches in the Black Sea next week, which Ukraine claims will make shipping in both the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov impossible. According to Ukraine's foreign office, the drills exhibited an 'outright disregard for the rules and treaty obligations.'
As tensions in Ukraine have risen in the coming weeks, US and British authorities have sounded more concerned about a full-fledged assault than their Ukrainian colleagues, who believe Vladimir Putin's ultimate purpose is to tire Ukraine and incite societal upheaval. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, who led a diplomatic team to Moscow and Kyiv, stated that following the Minsk accords, a 2015 peace pact, might pave the road ahead.
Representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France met in Berlin on Thursday in the so-called 'Normandy format' in a trying to locate areas of agreement on a strategy for instituting the Minsk contracts, which envisage a peace solution for the areas of eastern Ukraine currently controlled by Russia-backed forces. Nonetheless, prospects for a genuine breakthrough are modest, given that Moscow appears to desire an agreement that would give it a role in Ukraine's foreign affairs, which is expected to be a non-starter in Kyiv.