Russian Troops Stay in Belarus Beyond Deadline

US intelligence shows forces at Ukraine border have orders to invade
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2022 3:45 PM CST
Russian Troops Stay in Belarus Beyond Deadline
Civilians train Saturday in Kyiv with members of the Georgian Legion, a paramilitary unit formed mainly by ethnic Georgian volunteers to fight Russian forces in 2014.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The Russia-Belarus military exercises that were scheduled to end Sunday didn't. Belarus announced that the drills would be extended and said a task force was being formed to "fight back if necessary." Western military analysts had predicted Russian troops wouldn't leave on schedule, despite promises by Belarus' defense minister, the Washington Post reports. Vladimir Makei had told reporters that "not a single Russian serviceman and not a single piece of Russian military hardware will remain after these maneuvers." The analysts have warned that the Russian presence in Belarus could be setting up an invasion of Ukraine from the north. NATO estimates the Russian force in Belarus at 30,000. Other developments Sunday in the impasse involved:

  • An NSC meeting: President Biden and the National Security Council met for more than two hours. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said beforehand on CBS' Face the Nation that the idea was "to review the latest information, the latest intelligence, to check signals, to check plans," per the New York Times.
  • Russian orders: US intelligence indicates Russian troops on its border with Ukraine have been ordered to carry out a full invasion, per the Post. US intelligence sources pointed out that the orders could be withdrawn or could be misinformation, per CNN.
  • New denial: In an interview taped before the report came out about invasion orders, the Russian ambassador to the US denied an invasion was planned. "We have our legitimate right to have our troops where we want on Russian territory," Anatoly Antonov said on Face the Nation. "And I would like to say to you that we are not threatening to anybody."
  • Sunday alert: Analysts had long predicted Sunday would be the day Russia would attack, based on a series of events and anniversaries, per the Post. One was the scheduled end of the exercises in Belarus. And Kyiv was holding events to mark the most violent day of the Maidan Revolution, when about 50 people were killed by riot police. Also Sunday, the Munich Security Conference and Winter Olympics in Beijing end. The thinking was that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn't want to upstage Chinese President Xi Jinping, especially after their display of unity as the Games began.
(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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