Russian troops arrive in Belarus under new dealSun 12:07 pm Europe/London, 16 Oct 2022
The incoming service members are part of an allied force meant to bolster Minsk’s defenses
The first trains carrying Russian soldiers to Belarus under a new deal have reached their destinations, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence said on Saturday. This comes after Moscow and Minsk agreed earlier this week to deploy a joint force in response to NATO’s increased military activity on Belarus’ frontier.
The ministry said in a statement, “the decision to create a regional grouping of troops has been taken and is being implemented solely to defend” the borders of the Union State amid the “ongoing activity in the border areas.” Founded in 1999, Union State is an organization which consists of Russia and Belarus and seeks to promote cooperation between the two countries.
Russian troops have arrived in the neighboring country after President Alexander Lukashenko announced this week that Moscow and Minsk had agreed to deploy an allied force on Belarusian soil. The move, he said, came in response to increased aggression from Kiev and the West.
At the time, he also explained that given the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, “some 70,000” Belarusian service members would make up the bulk of the force, adding that nevertheless there would be “more than one thousand Russian soldiers.”
Amid heightened tensions with the West and Ukraine, last week Belarus also accused Kiev of “planning to conduct a strike” on the neighboring state. Ukraine vehemently denied this allegation, adding that it might be part of a Russian plan to “stage a provocation.”
Before that, Lukashenko had blasted Kiev for supposed attempts to orchestrate provocations on the Belarusian border, claiming that Ukraine had amassed 15,000 troops in the area while conducting reconnaissance and setting up fire positions.
Belarus, Moscow’s long-time ally, allowed Russian troops to use its territory to launch a military operation against Ukraine in late February. Minsk has rejected claims by officials in Kiev that its troops were directly engaged in action against Ukrainian forces. Lukashenko reiterated last week that his country’s role in the conflict is limited to self defense and, also, to ensure that “nobody would shoot Russians in the back” from the territory of Belarus.