Russian Arms, Troops Move Into Belarus

Russia denies US claim of a pretext for invading Ukraine as it prepares for exercises next-door
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2022 7:30 PM CST
Russian Arms, Troops Move Into Belarus
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, center, gestures speaking to the media during a briefing with her colleagues at the Ukrainian presidential office Monday in Kyiv.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(Newser) – Military, political, and diplomatic maneuvering took place over the standoff between Russia and Ukraine on Monday. Russia started to move troops into Belarus, Ukraine's neighbor to the north, the Guardian reports. At the same time, Ukraine was on the edge of internal political division. Developments included:

  • A buildup in Belarus: Russian forces began arriving in Belarus for joint military exercises planned for next month. Video posted on social media from Belarus appeared to show artillery coming by rail, and a Belarus official said troops have landed, as well. Experts have suggested Russia could invade Ukraine through Belarus, the Guardian reports, even if Belarus doesn't otherwise become involved in the fight.

  • A Russian denial: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded with anger to the US suggestion that Russia is laying the groundwork for a pretext to invade Ukraine, per the AP. That's "total disinformation," Sergey Lavrov said.
  • Britain sending arms: Light anti-tank missiles were sent on Monday from the UK to help Ukraine, along with a reassurance, per the BBC. "This support is for short-range and clearly defensive weapon capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia," said Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. "They are to use in self-defense." A small team of troops will be deployed to train Ukrainian forces, he said.
  • A returning figure: Petro Poroshenko, a former president of Ukraine and opponent of the current president, returned Monday to Kyiv to face charges of treason and supporting terrorism, per the New York Times. The case could divide Ukraine even as Russian forces sit on its doorstep. Poroshenko gave a long, rousing speech, per the Washington Post, in which he called for unity but also criticized President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • Germany's caution: In Kyiv for talks, Germany's foreign minister warned Russia against an invasion while urging that talks continue. "We are prepared to have a serious dialogue with Russia, because diplomacy is the only way to defuse this highly dangerous situation," Annalena Baerbock said.
  • Senators' support: A group of visiting US senators met with Zelensky and promised help, including arms, if the Ukrainians are forced to "defend their sovereignty."
(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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