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Russian troops take part in tactical drills in Belarus

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian and Belarusian tanks drive during joint military drills at the Brestsky firing range, Belarus. (File photo)

Russian troops are conducting tactical exercises in neighboring Belarus, firing artillery weapons in a winter landscape, Russia has announced.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, "Servicemen of the Western Military District ... continue intensive combat training on the ranges of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus."

It said that that "combat training events are held during both daylight and at night."

"Servicemen are shooting from all types of small arms, as well as from mortars; they hone their skills in driving combat vehicles, pass psychological obstacle courses, study tactical medicine and other disciplines," said the statement.

Video clips posted by the ministry showed Russian soldiers in snow gear training near tanks in a winter landscape, firing weapons, including artillery.

Russia sent a group of its soldiers to Belarus in October to take part in a new joint force with the host country's troops to "strengthen the protection and defense of the border" with Ukraine.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said while announcing the joint force at the time that Ukraine was plotting to attack his country.

Lukashenko accused Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine of training Belarusian radicals "to carry out sabotage, terrorist attacks and to organize a military mutiny in the country."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of "trying to directly draw Belarus into this war."

Putin ordered a military operation in Ukraine on February 24. He said at the time that one of the goals of what he called "a special military operation" was to "de-Nazify" Ukraine.

Belarusian armed forces are not known to have participated in military operations against Ukraine so far.

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