Feb 20, 2022 - World

Russia extends military drills in Belarus, fueling Ukraine invasion fears

Russian and Belorusian joint drills

Allied Resolve 2022 joint military drills held by Belarusian and Russian troops at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground on Feb. 19. Photo: Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

Russia will extend its military drills in Belarus past Sunday, when they were due to wind down, Belarus' defense ministry announced, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: Russia has been running joint military exercises with Belarus involving approximately 30,000 troops and sophisticated missile systems since Feb. 10.

  • U.S. officials believe Russia could use the drills in Belarus as a cover to attack Ukraine from the north.

State of play: The defense ministry said the drills had been extended due to "military activity near the borders of Russia and Belarus" as well as the situation in eastern Ukraine, which has seen increased shelling between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatists in recent days, per Reuters.

  • The presence of troops to the north of Ukraine has sparked worries that they could be used to sweep down to the capital of Kyiv, only a three hour drive away from the border, per AP.

The big picture: The news comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over large-scale drills involving nuclear forces on Saturday.

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