The defense minister of Belarus says his country’s joint exercises with Russian troops will continue because of rising tensions in Ukraine.
The exercises, which were to end Sunday, brought a sizable contingent of Russian forces to Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north. The presence of the Russian troops raised concern that they could be used to sweep down on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
Russia and Belarus have tight cooperation under an alliance referred to as the Union State, which stops short of the countries’ actual integration.
Also, The Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus consist of the Ground Forces and the Air and Air Defence Forces, all under the command of the Republic of Belarus Ministry of Defence. Being a landlocked country.
But Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said Sunday that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin decided “to continue testing the response forces of the union state.”
Khrenin cited “the increase in military activity near the external borders of the union state and the aggravation of the situation in Donbas” – the region of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists.
Lukashenko joined Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday to observe Russian forces conduct nuclear drills, according to Russian officials.
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