Crisis in Ukraine: Russian troops will stay in Belarus for military maneuvers, according to Minsk

Belarus announced on Sunday February 20 the continuation of joint military exercises with Russia on its territory, on the borders of Ukraine. Moscow had previously said that its soldiers who had been in Belarus for military maneuvers since 10 February would withdraw at the end of these, on Sunday. According to the United States count, 30,000 Russian servicemen are in Belarus.

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Instead of a withdrawal, the Belarusian Defense Ministry announced that Minsk and Moscow had decided to “continue inspection of forces” due to the outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

Vladimir Putin assures of “his intention to withdraw his troops”

For his part, the Russian president repeated to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “his intention to withdraw his troops” from Belarus “at the end of the current financial years”said the Elysée after a telephone conversation between the two leaders on Sunday. “We will have to check all this, it may take a little time”added the French presidency, while “noting that the declarations of the Belarusian authorities do not coincide with President Putin’s words”.

Russia is already accused by the West, despite several announcements of military withdrawal, of having massed 150,000 soldiers on the borders of Ukraine, in Russia and in Belarus, with a view to an invasion that the United States and other countries present as imminent. Moscow defends itself from any invasion project but demands guarantees for its security, including the promise that Ukraine will never join NATO and the end of the reinforcement of Alliance forces on its borders, as many demands as Westerners rejected.

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