The Republic’s Ministry of Defense reported that the Belarusian Army would remove military equipment from long-term storage. The ministry said it is taking place as part of the combat coordination of the regional grouping of troops of Belarus and Russia.
Russian troops have been stationed in Belarus since October, taking part in exercises as part of a joint regional grouping of troops. Their exact number is unknown. In the fall, the Belarusian Defense Ministry claimed that it was about 9,000 Russian soldiers. In late December, the Ukrainian Border Service reported a figure of 10,200 people.
Belarus’s premier Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in October on the creation of a joint grouping of troops. After that, Russia began the transfer of equipment and troops to Belarus. In late December, for the first time in more than three years, Putin flew to Minsk for a personal meeting with Lukashenka.
After Putin’s visit to Minsk, Russia began to more actively move troops into Belarus along the border with Ukraine. Last week, it was learned that Russia is transporting some soldiers to Belarus by hiding them in tank cars. So the military is trying to trick satellite surveillance systems and other methods of monitoring transport.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine suspect Russia may use Belarus as a springboard for a new offensive against Ukraine. Earlier, in an interview with The Economist, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzny, spoke about a possible Russian offensive from Belarus.
Analysts at the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) have also written that Russia may be preparing an offensive against Ukraine from the border with Belarus. He noted that on January 12, the Kremlin sent a high-ranking Russian official and one of three new deputy chiefs of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces Oleg Salyukov, to Belarus. Such inconsistent actions by the Kremlin raise suspicions that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine from Belarus, the report said.
ISW analysts also believe that Russia will expand its military presence in Belarus before holding the next exercise in 2023. In September, the armies of both powers plan to hold the exercises “West-2023” and “Union Shield-2023”.
The Ukrainian army has started preparations for a possible attack from the border with Belarus. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are moving military units to the north, and in the border areas of Rivne and Kyiv they are building fortifications, anti-tank barriers and fields.