Belarusian leader says exercises with Russia are not a sign of an imminent invasion of Ukraine.

Belarusian chief says workouts with Russia should not an indication of an imminent invasion of Ukraine.

OSIPOVICHI, Belarus — Mocking the USA for spending billions on intelligence businesses that he stated had wrongly predicted an assault on Ukraine, the autocratic chief of Belarus, Russia’s western neighbor and closest ally, stated Thursday that joint army workouts now underway between the nations didn’t presage an invasion — a minimum of not now.

Western officers have warned that the army maneuvers, often called Allied Resolve 2022 and described by NATO as the largest deployment of Russian troops in Belarus because the finish of the Chilly Battle, might function cowl for an assault on Ukraine, which shares a virtually 700-mile-long border with Belarus.

“There will likely be no invasion tomorrow,” the Belarusian chief, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, informed reporters after watching artillery and warplanes from Belarus and Russia placed on a loud show of firepower at a desolate army coaching floor exterior Osipovichi, a small city southeast of Minsk, the capital. America and its allies say the Russian risk stays excessive.

Russia didn’t showcase its most superior warplanes or battle tanks. However Sukhoi fighter bombers and Mi-24 helicopter gunships nonetheless projected energy, streaking over a snow-covered expanse of land now quick turning to mud — removed from best circumstances for the land assault on Ukraine that American officers have been predicting for weeks.

The joint workouts have attracted shut consideration from the West as a information not solely to Moscow’s intentions in Ukraine but additionally in Belarus, an unbiased state that has more and more fallen below the thumb of the Kremlin because it helped Mr. Lukashenko suppress large road protests in 2020 after a contested election.

Requested whether or not among the Russian troops and army {hardware} deployed in Belarus for the 10-day-long workouts may keep in his nation after the drills finish on Sunday, Mr. Lukashenko stated this might be selected Friday, when he meets President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow.

“If it is smart to maintain Russian troops right here, we’ll hold them so long as essential,” Mr. Lukashenko stated in remarks that appeared to contradict an announcement a day earlier by his international minister, Vladimir Makei, that “not a single Russian serviceman and never a single piece of Russian army {hardware} will stay after these maneuvers.”

Mr. Lukashenko, who has dominated Belarus since 1994, stated there was no want for everlasting Russian army bases in his nation however indicated that Russia may go away behind ammunition and a few army gear so “as to not drag them and forwards and backwards” every time the 2 nations maintain army workouts.

America, he stated, ought to “relax” and admit what he stated have been the errors of the intelligence assessments pointing to an imminent invasion.

“Do you continue to imagine that we are going to assault Ukraine from right here? Are you continue to entertaining this loopy concept?” Mr. Lukashenko requested earlier than climbing into his presidential helicopter for a flight again to Minsk.

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