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Combat readiness inspection in Belarus to be monitored by Ukraine, border service says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a virtual address to U.S. members of Congress, March 16, 2022. (Video screenshot)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry says it is carrying out an inspection of its armed forces’ combat readiness, a move that the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said it is monitoring as it continues observing cooperation between Russia and Belarus.

The inspection was initiated on behalf of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka under the leadership of the State Secretariat of the Security Council, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said in a statement on December 13, adding that it will have “a complex nature.”

“The troops will need to go to the designated areas as soon as possible, implement their engineering equipment, organize security and defense, as well as conduct bridge crossings,” the ministry said.

The move comes as Russia continues its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has staged some of its military operations from Belarus, whose leaders support Russia’s invasion and have allowed Belarusian territory to be used by the Russian army for training, redeployment, air strikes, and missile attacks.

The Belarusian authorities have warned that the movement of military equipment and personnel is planned during the inspection period, as well as the temporary restriction of the movement of citizens on certain public roads and areas.

Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service said the announcement doesn’t change its operations. It has been monitoring all joint Belarusian-Russian exercises and movements along the border and so far hasn’t seen any activity, it said.

“We will watch how the situation develops, including how close these units will come to the border with Ukraine,” Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service, said on December 13 at a briefing in Kyiv.

He said the announcement was an example of how Russia and Belarus attempt to inflame the situation.

“You should not panic. It doesn’t change anything for us,” said Demchenko. “We just have to do everything necessary so that our border [defenses] are ready to repulse any aggression or attack by any units that try to provoke us,” he emphasized.

Ukraine also has increased and continues to increase its defensive positions along the border, he said. In addition, a video surveillance system is being strengthened and drones are being deployed in order to monitor the situation, Demchenko said.

Ukraine has not identified any groups that could invade, but actions such as joint exercises, deployment of joint groups, and checking combat readiness “shows that Belarus is actively cooperating with Russia and the countries are acting according to a common plan,” Demchenko said.

“We see how Russia is pressuring Belarus, trying to involve them in a full-scale invasion of the territory of our country in an open war,” he added.