Belarus army begins sudden mass drills but says ‘no threat to neighbours’

Key Russian ally Belarus says militray excercises pose no threat to Europe

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 04 May 2022 10:12 BST
Ukraine: Evacuations from Mariupol steel plant begin

Belarus’s armed forces began sudden large-scale drills on Wednesday morning to test combat readiness in the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Belarus has claimed the military exercises pose no threat to Ukraine or the rest of Europe.

Reports of the exercises come as Russia concentrates on keeping the war on the eastern side of Ukraine.

“It is planned that the [combat readiness] test will involve the movement of significant numbers of military vehicles, which can slow down traffic on public roads,” the Belarusian government said in a statement.

Belarus did not elaborate exactly where the drills are taking place but said it is assessing the ability to “counter military threats both on land and in the air”.

During the initial days of the assault, the areas in Ukraine, including its capital Kyiv, adjacent to Belarus had come under Russian attack.

Belarus has been accused of aiding Russia's war efforts on Ukraine's northwestern side without directly participating in the attacks, prompting the west to impose sanctions.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday spoke to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and discussed the Russian operation in Ukraine, among other issues, according to official statements.

The Ukrainian defence ministry last week sounded a warning against the high possibility of aggressors launching missile strikes from Belarus.

Ahead of the declaration of war on 24 February, both the countries had held a joint military drill.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as of 19 April (Press Association Images)

Minsk, a key ally of Moscow, has vowed to “jointly oppose any attempts to slow down the development of our countries or to isolate them artificially from the global economy”.

Hitting out at the sanctions from the west, Mr Lukashenko addressing the media with his Russian counterpart in April said: “We are tied in many ways, including industrial cooperation, and such attempts will never succeed against us.”

Last week, the Belarusian defence ministry announced it would hold joint air defence exercises with Russia to cover areas of cooperation, capability and planning.

As the war continued in its third month, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that Mr Putin could be referring to hypersonic missiles when he recently mentioned Moscow had “unparalleled weapons”.

“Everyone knows this well. Three years ago, during his address to the Federal Assembly, president Vladimir Putin presented the latest Russian innovations. First of all, these included hypersonic weapons. He gave a frank and detailed explanation that Russia began developing them after the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,” Mr Lavrov said.

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