Belarus says Russian forces to remain for more drills
Russian military exercises in Belarus will continue, Minsk has announced Sunday.
Russian-Belarusian Allied Resolve-2022 joint drills will continue, Minsk announced Sunday.
The announcement came as French President Emmanuel Macron called Russia's Vladimir Putin for talks the Elysee described as "the last possible and necessary efforts to avoid a major conflict in Ukraine."
"The presidents of Belarus and Russia decided to continue inspections of the readiness of Union State forces," the Belarusian Defense Minister Victor Khrenin said in a statement.
He said the decision was taken due to increased military activity along the Belarusian and Russian borders and because of an escalation in east Ukraine.
The Belarus Defense Ministry said upcoming stages of the large-scale drills would continue the aim of ensuring a sufficient military response to any external threats.
Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei however said shortly after the drills began earlier this month that "not a single" Russian soldier would remain in the country after the massive joint maneuvers end.
The French presidency had also said that Emmanuel Macron had received assurances from Putin that Russian troops would depart following the drills.
US, NATO increasingly militarizing Eastern Europe
This comes at a time the US military put 8,500 troops on high alert for a possible deployment to Europe, according to Pentagon.
Moreover, US troops had arrived in Slovakia to take part in a multinational training exercise amid regional tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
"The Saber Strike 22 exercise focuses on strengthening cooperation amongst NATO allies," Slovak Chief of Defense, General Daniel Zmeko, told journalists.
"This exercise will test our ability to work together with our strongest and most important strategic partner in the field of defense," he added when the first plane carrying military equipment from Germany landed at the Kuchyna military base.
The US decision is a bid to increase tensions with Russia amid the crisis with Ukraine, as talks between Washington and Moscow failed to result in de-escalation. The US hopes NATO allies would feel reassured by this move.
Although this decision does not reinforce US support to Ukraine, it aims to shore up NATO's eastern flank.
The United States is increasingly militarizing Eastern Europe, under the pretext that Russia is preparing for military operations in Ukraine.
Russia denies any such plans and demands comprehensive security guarantees, including a NATO pledge never to allow Ukraine to join it.