Russia and Belarus have begun joint military exercises close to Belarus’s borders near Ukraine, further inflaming tensions in the region and triggering Kyiv to conduct its own military exercises in response.
The Russia–Belarus military drill, which began on Feb. 10, will reportedly last for 10 days. Moscow has committed 30,000 troops while almost the entirety of the armed forces of Belarus is taking part in the exercises.
Russia is expected to use Spetsnaz special operations forces, S-400 missile defense systems, SU-35 fighter jets, and nuclear-capable Iskander missiles during the joint exercise according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Ukraine launched its war games on Thursday which will run until Feb. 20. Ukrainian forces will deploy NLAW anti-tank weapons, Javelin anti-tank missiles, and Bayraktar drones for the exercise. Roughly 10,000 troop members are taking part in the drills.
“The armed forces of Ukraine are ready. We are capable and we will not give up a single meter of Ukrainian land without a fight,” Ukrainian General Oleksandr Syrskyi said to Sky News. The training of Ukraine’s armed forces is being conducted close to borders where there is a high possibility of enemy offense.
Russia has also sent six warships to Sevastopol in Crimea that Moscow annexed from Ukraine back in 2014. The warships will take part in the upcoming naval drills in the Black Sea.
Ukraine criticized Moscow for blocking parts of the Black Sea, Kerch Strait, and the Sea of Azov for the naval exercises. These blockades will make navigation on both seas “virtually impossible” and negatively affect international shipping and trade, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said.
“This is a manifestation of open disregard for the norms and principles of international law, including the UN Charter, UN General Assembly resolutions, and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the ministry said in an official statement on Feb. 10.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the potential invasion of Ukraine as one of the critical moments for Europe at a recent press conference with Stoltenberg. “I honestly don’t think a decision has yet been taken (by Moscow). But that doesn’t mean that it is impossible that something absolutely disastrous could happen very soon,” Johnson said.
“This is probably the most dangerous moment, I would say that in the course of the next few days, in what is the biggest security crisis that Europe has faced for decades, and we’ve got to get it right.”