AP, Sputnik and AFP

Newspaper La Jornada
Wednesday, January 19, 2022, p. 24

Moscow. Russia is moving soldiers from the country’s far east to Belarus to take part in military exercises, officials said yesterday, in a deployment that further bolsters Russian assets near Ukraine amid Western fears of an invasion.

In what a senior US official quoted by the Russian agency Sputnik described as an extremely dangerous show of force, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexandr Fomin explained that the drills are to practice a joint response to external threats against the alliance between Russia and Belarus, which have close political, economic, and military ties. Fomin did not say how many troops and weapons were being mobilized for the war exercises.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki commented that Russia is ready to attack Ukraine at any time, adding that no option is ruled out.

Ukrainian officials have expressed fear that Russia will launch an attack from various directions, including from Belarus.

This Russian deployment will bolster an already amassed force near Ukraine of some 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons, in what the West fears could be a prelude to an invasion. Moscow has denied that it seeks to attack its former Soviet neighbor, but has demanded assurances from the West that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will not expand into Ukraine or other eastern nations.

Washington and its allies rejected Moscow’s demands during a Russia-US meeting last week in Geneva and during a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels.

Fomin commented that the drills, which involve an unspecified number of troops from Russia’s Eastern Military District – which covers eastern Siberia and the Far East – reflect the need to practice concentrating all of the country’s military potential in the western Russia.

A situation may arise in which the forces and means of the regional group of forces are insufficient to ensure the reliable security of the union, and we must be ready to strengthen it, Fomin said at a meeting with foreign military attachés. We have reached an agreement with Belarus that it is necessary to commit the entire military potential for joint defense.