Belarus moves soldiers and gear amid Ukrainian fears of attack

  • World
  • Wednesday, 07 Dec 2022

(Reuters) -Belarus plans to move military equipment and forces on Wednesday and Thursday in what it said was a counter-terrorism exercise, the latest in a flurry of military actions that have raised fears Russia may mount a new attack on Ukraine from the territory of its ally.

"During this period, it is planned to move military equipment and personnel of the national security forces," the state news agency BelTA cited Belarus' Security Council as saying.

"The movement of citizens (transport) along certain public roads and areas will be restricted and the use of imitation weapons for training purposes is planned."

There was no information on which regions would be affected or what form the exercise would take.

Belarus has said it will not enter the war in neighbouring Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko has in the past ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing threats to Belarus from Kyiv and the West.

Belarus and Russia are formally part of a "union state" and are closely allied economically and militarily. Russia used Belarus as a staging post for its failed advance on Kyiv, starting on Feb. 24.

Lukashenko had for many years resisted Russian military deployments in Belarus, but his dependence on Moscow has deepened since it helped him quash a wave of pro-democracy protests after disputed elections in 2020.

In October, Lukashenko announced a fresh Russian deployment of 9,000 troops to Belarus as part of a new joint military grouping.

In its preliminary budget for 2023, Belarus plans to increase defence spending by over 50%.

Ukraine has been warning for months that it fears that Belarus and Russia could be planning a new incursion across its northern border.

In a statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday, Ukraine's General Staff said enemy units were being trained in Belarus and that Russian attacks continued to be launched from Belarusian territory.

Last week, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Viktor Khrenin, to discuss military cooperation.

(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Kevin Liffey)

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