Russian troops in Belarus a new form of coercion says intelligence expert
The deployment of Russian troops to Belarus is a new opportunity for Russia to pressure Ukraine from multiple sides, the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Intelligence Center said on Tuesday.
"The location of the Russian Federation's units in Belarus will certainly put pressure on Ukraine. From there it is significantly closer to Kyiv. And it will certainly make the whole geopolitical and military-political landscape that prevails in the world today significantly more confusing and complex," Margo Grosberg told ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera".
Russia has deployed two S-400 missile system divisions, one Pantsir-S missile system and 12 Su-35 fighter jets to Belarus, it was reported on Tuesday.
If these weapons are placed on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, an air defense bubble would reach Kyiv allowing Russia to gain control over Ukraine's skies, Grosberg said.
Ukrainian analyst Mykhailo Samus said it is clear Russia can now use Belarus as a platform against Ukraine.
"We have a border with Belarus. This means that the air force, the missile force, special operations units, intelligence units, electronic combat units could operate throughout the territory of Ukraine," said Samus.
Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said Russia is trying to pressure NATO and the U.S.
"If we look at Russia's actions as a whole, put simply, the circle is shrinking around Ukraine. It all indicates that the Russian delegations want to put pressure on the various negotiating tables - be it the NATO-Russia Council or bilaterally the United States. The pressure continues to get stronger," said Laanet.
In recent months, Russia has massed approximately 100,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern border and more are still heading east. Some experts believe an attack is likely in the coming weeks. A cyberattack against Ukraine's government websites took place last Friday.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday the country would hold a joint military exercise with Russia in February.
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Editor: Helen Wright