Belarus announced on Sunday that joint military exercises conducted with Russia on its territory, originally scheduled to end on 20 February, would continue due to the increased tension in neighbouring Ukraine, Belga News Agency reports.
“Given the increase in military activity near the borders (…) and the deterioration of the situation in the Donbass, the presidents of Belarus and Russia have decided to pursue the inspection of the forces,” the Belarus Defence Ministry indicated on Sunday on its Telegram account.
Ukraine’s Donbass region, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting against the Ukrainian armed forces since 2014, is located in the far east of the country, on the border with Russia. Belarus lies due north of Ukraine.
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The joint military exercises, which began on 10 February, brought large numbers of Russian forces to Belarus, raising concern that they could be used for an assault on the Ukranian capital, Kyiv, which is just about 300 km south of the Belarusian border.
Moscow had previously said the 30,000 troops it has in Belarus were simply carrying out readiness drills with their Belarusian counterparts and that the exercises would be finished by 20 February.