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Russia transfers troops from Far East to Belarus as European tensions rise

RUSSIA is transferring troops from the Far East to Belarus in preparation for major military exercises next month, the Defence Ministry said today.

The allies say the planned drills are related to heightened “external threats.”

The United States began what it said would be annual “Defender Europe” military exercises along Russia’s borders in 2020, involving manoeuvres along Russia’s borders from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and Nato has increased its “forward base” troop presence in Poland and the Baltic states, though the US has previously said it would be scaling back the European war games this year to hold larger ones in the Pacific aimed at China.

The new Russian troop movement was condemned as aggressive by Ukraine, which said a Russian military presence in Belarus would give Moscow more options for invasion routes.

Western countries say an armed build-up in Russia’s west could be preparation for an invasion of Ukraine, something Moscow rejected on Monday as “total disinformation.”

Britain sent troops to Ukraine on Monday, supposedly in response to the threat.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected calls for Russia to withdraw further from the border, saying: “We can’t accept demands about our armed forces on our own territory. We aren’t threatening anyone.” 

The US has rejected Russian proposals for new protocols to defuse tensions in Europe, which would include a commitment not to include Ukraine in Nato, withdrawal of Nato troops from former Soviet republics and agreeing not to station nuclear weapons outside their own borders.

Following the failure of talks in Geneva last week, Russia said it could not rule out military deployments in Cuba and Venezuela. It is also considering stationing nuclear weapons in Belarus.

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