Belarus, an ally of Moscow which shares a border with Ukraine, launched “surprise” military maneuvers on Wednesday to test the reaction capacity of its army, its defense ministry said.
Belarusian military units were testing their ability to “stand on alert, move to predetermined areas and train for combat,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The objective is to assess the state of readiness and the ability of the troops to react quickly to a possible crisis,” he continued, calling the maneuvers a “surprise” exercise.
He posted photos of columns of vehicles, including tanks, moving along the roads.
The exercise will be closely watched by kyiv, which has repeatedly accused Belarus of planning to send troops to Ukraine to help Russia’s military operation against its pro-Western neighbor.
Belarus has been ruled with an iron fist by strongman Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for nearly 30 years. The country serves as an air and logistics base for Moscow.
Nevertheless, not all Belarusians are in favor of even indirect participation in the current conflict and there have been acts of sabotage in recent months and several suspects have been arrested.
In 2020, Belarus was rocked by protests over the allegedly fraudulent re-election of Lukashenko, who ordered a fierce crackdown on dissent.