The Belarusian Defense Ministry announced Sunday that nearly 9,000 Russian troops will be stationed in Belarus as part of a “regional grouping” to help protect the country’s borders.
“The first troop trains with Russian servicemen who are part of the [regional grouping] began to arrive in Belarus,” said Belarusian Defense Ministry official Valeriy Revenko, according to Reuters. “The total number will be a little less than 9,000 people.”
The announcement comes after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Russian forces would deploy with Belarusian soldiers in response to tensions on the western borders of the “Union State,” referring to the combined territory of Russia and Belarus.
Lukashenko made the comments in response to the truck bombing of the Kerch Bridge, which connects the Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia. Over the past several days, Ukrainian shelling has been reported in Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine.
Lukashenko allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch the initial part of his invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian territory. But Belarus has not entered the war, and there’s still no sign that a decision has been made in Minsk to fight in Ukraine.