First Russian soldiers arrive in Belarus for joint force: Minsk | Military News

Belarus’ Defense Ministry says the mission is “exclusively” to strengthen protection of its borders.

The first convoy of Russian forces has arrived in Belarus, the country’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday, as part of a regional force “exclusively to strengthen the protection and defense of the border” with Ukraine.

It comes days after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, said Minsk and Moscow will deploy a joint military task force to respond to what he described as heightening tensions on the western borders of the country country called.

Images on social media showed soldiers being greeted by women wearing traditional costumes and handing out bread and salt.

Lukashenko also accused Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine of training Belarusian radicals “to carry out sabotage, terrorist attacks and organize a military mutiny in the country”.

Lukashenko is financially and politically dependent on Russia. Moscow helped the Belarusian president quell the pro-democracy protests that erupted after his victory in the disputed 2020 presidential election.

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The Belarusian leader allowed his country to be used by Moscow’s troops to launch the invasion of Ukraine. But the Belarusian armed forces have so far not participated in the offensive.

Now, the deployment of the joint force has raised fears that Belarusian troops could join Russian forces in their offensive in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of “trying to drag Belarus directly into this war” at a G7 meeting on Tuesday and called for an international observer mission to be stationed on the Ukraine-Belarus border.

The latest development comes as Russia’s military offensive has suffered a series of setbacks after losing ground in northeastern and southern Ukraine. In another strike against Moscow last week, a massive explosion damaged the Kerch Bridge, which connects annexed Crimea to mainland Russia. The damaged bridge – a key supply route for Russian soldiers – will not be repaired until July, according to a document published on the Russian government’s website. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Russia has carried out a spate of missile and drone strikes in Ukraine after blaming Kyiv for the Kerch Bridge blast. A hospital, kindergarten and other buildings in the town of Nikopol, across the river from the Russian-held Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, were attacked.

On Friday, Putin said he had no plans “for now” to launch massive airstrikes like Monday’s. He added that the reservists’ call-up would be complete in two weeks and promised an end to the divisive mobilization that saw hundreds of thousands of men called to fight in Ukraine and large numbers fleeing the country.

At a security summit in the Kazakh capital of Astana, Putin said he had no regrets sending troops to Ukraine nearly eight months ago.

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“What’s happening today is uncomfortable, to say the least,” he said. “But we would have had it all a little later, just under worse conditions for us, that’s all. So my actions are right and timely.”

In response to Monday’s attacks, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Washington would send ammunition and military vehicles to Ukraine as part of a new $725 million aid package.

While Ukrainian “defenders are pushing back Russia’s forces,” the U.S. stands united with Ukraine, Blinken said in a tweet on Friday.

Washington’s latest military package includes more ammunition for HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) and increases total U.S. military aid to Ukraine from Joe Biden’s administration to $18.3 billion, the Defense Department said in a separate statement.


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