Russia And Belarus To Hold “Defensive” Air Drills, Making Kyiv Worried About A New Offensive
- The Kremlin has denied that it has put pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to get more involved in the conflict in Ukraine.
- The Institute for the Study of War in Washington said that it was very unlikely that Ukrainian forces still had positions inside of Soledar.
On Monday, the air forces of Russia and Belarus will start practising together. This has made people in Kiev and the West worry that Russia could use its ally to start a new ground offensive in Ukraine.
Minsk says the drills are for defence, and since Moscow used its neighbour as a base to invade Ukraine in February of last year, Belarus has done a lot of military drills, both on its own and with Russia.
Along with Moscow, Minsk has also been adding weapons and military equipment to the drills.
Since the beginning of the year, unofficial military monitoring channels on Telegram have been reporting that fighters, helicopters, and military transport planes have been coming to Belarus. On Sunday alone, eight fighters and four cargo planes came to Belarus.
The reports could not be checked out by Reuters. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense only said that “units” of the Russian Air Force were coming to Belarus.
“All airfields and training grounds of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Belarus will be used during the tactical flight exercise,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to a post on the Belarusian defence ministry’s Telegram app on Sunday, Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of Belarusian Security Council, said that the situation on Belarus’s southern border with Ukraine was “not very calm” and that Ukraine was “provoking” Belarus.
Muraveyko said, “We’re staying calm and patient, and we’re keeping our gunpowder dry.” “We have the right forces and tools to deal with any aggression or terrorist threat on our land.”
Ukraine has been warning Belarus for a long time that it could attack, and last week, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the country must be ready at its border with Belarus.
The Kremlin has denied that it has put pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to get more involved in the conflict in Ukraine. Minsk says it won’t get involved in the war.
Little Hope Of More Survivors
On Sunday, a day after a major Russian missile attack hit an apartment building in the city of Dnipro, Ukraine had little hope of finding any more survivors. Dozens of people were thought to have died in the attack.
Natalia Babachenko, who works for the regional governor, said that 30 people have been confirmed dead so far and that more than 30 people are in the hospital, with 12 of them in serious condition. She said that 30 to 40 people could still be buried under the rubble.
Emergency workers said they heard people screaming for help from under piles of rubble from the nine-story apartment building in the city’s east-central area. They were using quiet times to figure out where to focus their work. Freezing weather made rescuers even more worried.
Borys Filatov, the mayor of Dnipro, told Reuters, “Right now, there aren’t many chances to save people.” I think there will be dozens of deaths.”
The Ukrainian Air Force said that a Russian Kh-22 missile, which is known to be inaccurate and which Ukraine does not have the air defences to shoot down, hit the apartment building. During the Cold War, the Soviets made a weapon that could destroy warships.
On Saturday, Russia fired two waves of missiles at Ukraine, hitting targets all over the country as fighting raged in the eastern towns of Soledar and Bakhmut.
Since October, when Moscow invaded Ukraine in February, it has been hitting its energy infrastructure with missiles and drones. This has caused widespread blackouts and problems with heating and running water.
Appeal For More Weapons
Zelenskiy asked Western allies to send more weapons to stop “Russian terror” and attacks on civilian targets in his nightly address after the Dnipro attack.
The West is thinking about sending battle tanks to Kyiv before a meeting of Ukraine’s allies next Friday in Ramstein, Germany. At that meeting, governments will announce their latest military support pledges.
On Saturday, Britain followed France and Poland in saying it would send more weapons. It said it would send 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks and other advanced artillery support in the coming weeks.
Moscow is likely to see the first shipment of tanks made in the West to Ukraine as a step up in the conflict. The Russian Embassy in London said that the tanks would make the fight last longer.
Moscow calls Russia’s invasion a “special military operation,” but it has already killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and turned many cities into ruins.
In eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, where Russia is trying to take over more land, Ukrainian forces were fighting around the small salt-mining town of Soledar.
Russian forces said they had taken control of the town, but the Ukraine said on Sunday that its forces were fighting to keep the town, and that Russian forces were coming from all directions.
“The battle goes on,” said Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar on the messaging app Telegram. “Everything else isn’t true,” she said.
The Institute for the Study of War in Washington said that it was very unlikely that Ukrainian forces still had positions inside of Soledar.
Reuters couldn’t find out right away what was going on in the town.