Belarus To Hold Live Fire Drills With Russia Amid Troop Surge
Belarus on Monday announced new live-fire drills with Russian forces currently mustering on Belarusian soil. “The Belarusian defense ministry said on Monday it will conduct live fire exercises and anti-aircraft guided missile launches as part of its joint grouping with Russian forces, Interfax reported,” as cited in Reuters.
“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,” Interfax detailed, quoting the Belarusian military.
Ukraine and its Western allies are watching the build-up of activity near the northern border following last week’s jointly announced new military “grouping” of Russian and Belarusian forces. On Saturday the first wave of new Russian troops arrived. Minsk has indicated the Russian contingent will make up less than 9,000 troops.
Few other details were given in the initial statement, such as timeframe, but Kiev is taking this as a sign of Russian escalation – at a moment its cities are coming under increased missile and drone attacks.
While Belarus has throughout the conflict appeared only indirectly supportive of Russian forces, particularly logistics, it played host to tens of thousands of Russian forces in the weeks leading up to the Feb.24 invasion. That too had been dubbed part of “training exercises”.
A potentially alarming aspect as to the timing of the announced ‘live fire’ drills is that NATO just kicked off its own annual large-scale nuclear exercises in the region of the North Sea. Belarus’ announcement could be aimed at ‘mirroring’ the West’s drills with its own bit of muscle-flexing.
According to details presented in Russian state media, “Thousands of Russian troops will be arriving in Belarus with some 170 tanks, up to 200 armored vehicles, and up to 100 artillery pieces, Valery Revenko, an aide to the Belarussian defense minister, said on Twitter on Monday. The troops will be hosted as part of the recently created joint military force.”
And further, “Minsk decided to bolster its security by hosting Russian troops after its attempts to de-escalate border tensions were rejected, Revenko claimed to have told the military attaches.”
About 170 tanks, up to 100 guns and mortars of caliber over 100 mm, up to 200 combat vehicles and 9,000 soldiers will arrive from #Russia to #Belarus as part of a “regional grouping of troops”.
On video: the arrival of Russian soldiers in #Belarus pic.twitter.com/tq1e1TSSpB
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) October 17, 2022
Could this be the start of greater direct Belarusian involvement in Ukraine? Both Putin and Lukashenko have been warning NATO over heavier and more advanced weapons being supplied to Ukraine, which they say is a direct threat to the their respective homelands.