Russia is a sending an unspecified number of troops from the country’s far east to Belarus for major war games, officials said Tuesday, a deployment that will further beef up Russian military presence near Ukraine amid Western fears of a planned invasion.
Amid the soaring tensions, the White House warned that Russia could attack its neighbor at “any point,” while the U.K. delivered a batch of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the joint drills with Belarus would involve practicing a joint response to external threats.
Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine from several directions, including from its ally Belarus.
The U.S. again stressed its concern Tuesday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki describing the Russian forces’ move into Belarus as part of as “extremely dangerous situation.”
“We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine,” she said.
A series of talks last week between Russia, the U.S. and NATO failed to quell the tensions over Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday in another attempt to defuse the crisis.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it has received a shipment of anti-tank weapons from the U.K., noting that they will help “strengthen our defense capability.”
Russia already has started moving troops for the war games in Belarus. Fomin said it would take through Feb. 9 to fully deploy weapons and personnel for the Allied Resolve 2022 drills, which are expected to take place Feb. 10-20.
Fomin didn’t say how many troops will be involved, but mentioned that Russia will deploy a dozen Su-35 fighter jets and several air defense units to Belarus. The deployment would bolster an estimated 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and other heavy weapons who are already amassed near Ukraine.