Russia sending more troops to drills in Belarus, near Ukraine border

Troop buildup near Ukraine

Russian officials say Moscow is sending an unspecified number of troops from the country’s far east to Belarus for major joint military drills.

The deployment will dramatically bolster an estimated 100,000 Russian troops already amassed near Ukraine in what the West fears could be a prelude to an invasion. Russia has denied that it intends to attack.

But Moscow has demanded guarantees from the West that NATO won't expand to Ukraine or other ex-Soviet nations or place weapons there. Those demands were rejected last week by Washington and its allies.

The U.S. again stressed its concern Tuesday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki describing the Russian forces' move into Belarus as part of as “extremely dangerous situation.”

A series of talks last week between Russia, the U.S. and NATO failed to quell the tensions over Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday in another attempt to defuse the crisis.

Ukraine's Defence Ministry said Tuesday it has received a shipment of anti-tank weapons from the U.K., noting that they will help “strengthen our defence capability.”

Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said the joint drills with Belarus would involve practising a joint response to external threats. Fomin said it would take through Feb. 9 to fully deploy weapons and personnel for the Allied Resolve 2022 drills, which are expected to take place Feb. 10-20.

Amid the tensions, Ukraine's Defence Ministry said Tuesday that it was speeding up efforts to form reserve battalions that would allow for the rapid deployment of 130,000 recruits to expand the country's 246,000-strong military.

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