The Russian and Belarusian armies on Thursday began a 10-day exercise in Belarusamid tensions between Russia and Western countries on Ukraine and the diplomatic efforts being made to defuse the crisis.
The Russian-Belarusian exercises “are developed with the aim of preparing to stop and repel foreign aggression as part of a defensive operation,” said the Belarusian Defense Ministry. Russia it’s a statement.
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The displacement of soldiers was denounced by Ukraine as a means of “psychological pressure” from the Russian government, which has concentrated more than 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine’s borders since November.
“We believe that the accumulation of troops near our borders is a means of psychological pressure from our neighbors,” declared the president of UkraineVolodimir Zelensky, quoted in a presidential statement.
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France considered that the maneuvers are “a gesture of great violence” that “concerns”. “There is a lot of maneuvering, particularly on the border with Ukraine”French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on France Inter public radio.
Russia is accused of being ready to carry out a new military operation against Ukraineafter the annexation of crimea in 2014, accusations rejected by the Kremlin, which says it wants to guarantee its security in the face of what it considers to be the hostile behavior of Kiev and NATO.
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At the diplomatic level, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will receive the leaders of the Baltic countries, former Soviet member republics of NATO, in Berlin on Thursday.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnsonwho announced the dispatch of 350 additional soldiers to Poland as part of a NATO mission, will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels and then travel to Warsaw, while his Foreign Minister Liz Truss, he’s in Moscow.
The Russian Ministry of Defense indicated that The military exercises will be held until February 20 at five military camps, four air bases and “several places” in Belarus, particularly in the Brest region, which borders Ukraine.
The Russian and Belarusian armies have not disclosed the number of soldiers taking part in the exercises, but U.S has said that Russia planned to send 30,000 soldiers to various regions of Belarus.
In a statement this Thursday, the Russian army only specified that S-400 anti-aircraft systems were deployed in the Brest region.
The tensions have provoked an intense diplomatic effort to find a way out of the crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Moscow on Monday and Kiev on Tuesday.
Macron said he received from the Russian president, Vladimir Putinguarantees that it would not be the cause of a greater “escalation” and that the Russian troops currently deployed in Belarus will leave as planned once the maneuvers are over.
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“Ultimatums and threats lead nowhere”but “many of our Western colleagues love this way (of communicating),” the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, said Thursday at the start of his meeting with Truss.
The head of the diplomacy of Poland – an ally of Ukraine -, Zbigniew Rau, is in Kiev this Thursday to negotiate.
In parallel, the Ukrainian army began its own exercises throughout the territoryincluding the use of Turkish combat drones and anti-tank missiles delivered by the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the event of an attack, Western countries have threatened Russia with greater economic sanctions that will be added to those imposed in 2004 after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
This annexation was followed by the beginning of a conflict in the east of Ukraine between the government and Russian-backed separatists, a war that has claimed more than 13,000 lives in eight years, according to the UN, and continues despite the 2015 peace accords.
Russia denies that it seeks to destabilize its pro-Western neighbor and maintains that it only wants to defend itself against NATO, which Ukraine wants to join.
Therefore, Russia demands an end to the policy of enlarging the NATOthe commitment not to deploy offensive weapons near the Russian borders and the withdrawal of the Alliance’s military infrastructure to the 1997 borders, that is, before the organization welcomed the former members of the Soviet bloc.
The United States, which has sent military reinforcements to Eastern Europe, rejected those demands but left the door open for discussions on other issues, such as the deployment of missiles or the reciprocal limitation of military maneuvers.
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