Belarus has started military exercises by the city of Brest near the Polish border, its capital Minsk and the northeast region of Vitebsk, the defence ministry said on Thursday, Daily Mail reported.
Belarus, a close ally of Russia, said the exercises, located just 20 miles from Ukraine’s border and six miles from Poland, will practice ‘liberating territory temporarily seized by the enemy’ and regaining control over border regions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used similar rhetoric to justify his invasion of Ukraine earlier this year and had staged wargames near the border before sending his troops into battle, Daily Mail reported.
Minsk has complained for months about NATO countries amassing soldiers near its borders – Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are all members of the alliance – and is increasing the amount and intensity of its own military exercises in response.
The Belarusian defence ministry added that the exercises, which is set to last until September 14, will practice ‘ensuring forceful measures of martial law’ as well as fighting against the ‘enemy and illegal armed formations’.
Up to 7,500 military personnel, 260 armoured vehicles and about 30 aircraft and helicopters will take part in the exercise, local media reported.
According to the defence ministry, the level of troops and military equipment involved in the exercise did not require them to provide notice under OSCE guidelines.
The exercises will take place in Minsk, the northeast region of Vitebsk, and by the city of Brest, which is located just 20 miles from Ukraine’s border.
Last week, Oleksiy Gromov, senior Ukrainian military official, said Ukraine’s armed forces are ‘ready’ for any development of events during Belarus’s military exercises.
But Gromov said that the ‘probability’ of Belarus launching an attack on Ukraine ‘remains low’, reports Ukrainian news agency Interfax.
The military exercises come after Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko reaffirmed his support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, Daily Mail reported.
Lukashenko’s support of the war has prompted international criticism and sanctions against Minsk.
Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has allowed Moscow to use its territory to send thousands of troops into neighbouring Ukraine, as well as to launch missiles from its airspace.