Ukraine Calls Russia-Belarus Drills ‘Psychological Pressure’
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called the joint military drills launched by Russia and Belarus along his former Soviet republic’s border “psychological pressure”.
Zelensky’s comments were released by his office as Russia and Belarus launched major exercises that are due to run until February 20.
The Kremlin has promised that Russia will pull back its forces from Belarus once the drills conclude.
But they have further heightened tensions despite European efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Russia’s clash with the West over NATO expansion and Ukraine.
“The accumulation of forces at the border is psychological pressure from our neighbours. We see nothing new here,” Zelensky was quoted as telling a group of European business leaders in Kyiv.
“As for the risks — the risks are there and have been there since 2014,” he said in reference to the year Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and then backed a separatist insurgency in its industrial southeast.
“The issue is the degree of these risks, and how we respond to them.”
Ukraine has launched its own military drills that are due to mirror those being conducted by Belarus and Russia.
But military officials in Kyiv have said little about them out an apparent fear of escalating tensions.
Zelensky said Ukraine had “enough forces to honourably defend our country.”