Ukraine launched an operation Wednesday to strengthen its border with Belarus and held anti-tank and airborne military exercises in the area. Tensions are soaring in the region over increased NATO activity, an alleged Russian troop build-up, and a migrant crisis in Belarus.
According to Reuters, the Ukrainian state border service said the “special operation” near Belarus involved the military, police, and other reserve forces. “Aviation, drones will also be actively used for patrolling and monitoring,” the border service said.
Ukraine has beefed up its border security by deploying an additional 8,500 troops over fears that migrants from the Middle East will try to enter the country from Belarus. The EU has accused Belarus of flying in migrants and transporting them to its border with Poland and other countries as retaliation for EU sanctions, a charge Minsk denies.
Over the past few weeks, the US has been claiming that Russia is planning an invasion of Ukraine based on the alleged troop build-up. For their part, Russia strongly denies the accusation and points to the increase in US and NATO activity in the region as the source of tensions. On Tuesday, the Russian defense minister said US bombers recently flew within 12.4 miles of Russia’s borders.
Russia is concerned over the Western push to send arms to Ukraine. Since 2014, the US has provided Kyiv with over $2 billion in military aid, including Javelin anti-tank missiles. CNN reported on Monday that the US is considering sending even more weapons to Ukraine and possibly military advisors.