Jan 29, 2022 14:47 UTC
  • Russian troops arrive in Belarus ahead of joint military drills

Russia has begun deploying troops and military hardware to Ukraine’s northern neighbor Belarus for a new round of joint military drills scheduled for next month.

Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the military exercises, which will be held on February 10-20, are aimed at "practicing coordinating allied forces," adding that tens of thousands of troops were already arriving in Belarus ahead of the upcoming drills.

Video footage released by the ministry also showed artillery, tanks and armored vehicles arriving on flatbed carriages owned by the Russian state railway company.

Relations between Russia and the West have hit a new low in recent weeks. The United States, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have accused Russia of amassing troops near Ukraine's border for a possible invasion. Moscow rejects the allegation and insists that deployments are defensive in nature.

On January 24, the US announced it had put about 8,500 American troops on heightened alert for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe to counter the alleged threat of a Russian invasion. NATO countries also said they were sending additional ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe and putting forces on standby.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Washington of fueling tensions over Ukraine, stressing that Moscow was watching US actions with great concern.

The US State Department has also approved shipments of US-made missiles and other weapons from NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Ukraine.

Other NATO members, including Britain and Poland, have agreed to directly send arms to Ukraine, including handguns, ammunition, and anti-tank weapons.

The two allies also held large-scale military exercises in September 2021. Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the time that the military drills were not directed against any foreign country, but called them a necessary response to increased US-led NATO activity near Russia’s borders and those of its allies.