The Ukrainian army has warned about the growing threat of missile attacks from the Belarusian airspace.
The warning was issued in a Monday Facebook post from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (UAF).
“Under the guise of joint training, the adversary has reinforced its combat aircraft group in Belarus. Due to this, the threat of missile and air strikes from the airspace of Belarus is growing,” the post read.
Belarus and Russia began their joint military exercises Monday, adding to fears that Moscow might launch a new ground and air offensive against Kyiv. While Belarus has yet to join the war, the country served as a launching pad for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year.
Both Belarus and Russia will be conducting air force drills until Feb. 1, 2023, using all of Minsk’s military airfields. The joint army exercises will also involve a “mechanized brigade division.”
The main goal of the joint drills is to “increase operational compatibility in the joint performance of combat training tasks,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense of Belarus, as translated via Google Translate.
Minsk claims the drills are “defensive in nature” and that it does not plan on joining the war. However, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarus’ exiled opposition leader, claims the real purpose of the joint military exercises is to “threaten the Ukrainians and turn the attention of their troops from the eastern part of the country to the northern borders,” Euro News reported.
In response to the military drills, Ukraine is now preparing for a possible new offensive near the Belarusian border, including updating and strengthening its trenches originally built in April last year.
“In all areas of our responsibility we are building these fortifications to be able to defend and mount counter-offensives clandestinely,” a 32-year-old Ukrainian officer told NBC News. “The potential offensive from the Belarusian side could come from anywhere. That’s why we are getting ready for all scenarios.”
Since the beginning of the war last year, Russia has lost 116,080 military troops, including 790 who died over the past day, as per estimates from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.