Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have called for representatives from Belarus to attend a meeting on Monday within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), aimed at clarifying the situation with joint military exercises with Russian Federation troops, being held in Belarus.
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the weekend said Minsk's responses to calls for clarification made by all three Baltic States last week had been "insufficient".
Ministry spokesperson Liisa Toots told ERR that: "Belarus' response to the specific questions asked in the three Baltic states' inquiries remain inadequate and have not demonstrated the desired transparency regarding the objectives, scope and activities of the forces taking part in the exercise."
"The maximum implementation of existing transparency measures is vital in today's security situation, but this can only work if all parties show openness and readiness for a meaningful dialogue," Toots added.
All three Baltic States have opted to convene additional consultations with Belarus under the terms of the OSCE Vienna Document, scheduled for today, Monday, and to be chaired by Poland.
The meeting is also open to other OSCE member states' representatives.
NATO has stated that more Russian military personnel are now on the ground in Belarus than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are all OSCE member states.
Ukraine itself called for consultations under the same Vienna document framework, within 48 hours of the request – made Sunday evening – ERR reports (link in Estonian).
Russia's defense ministry has said the joint exercise, Soyuznaya Reshimost ("Allied Resolve") 2022, is of a defensive nature and is aimed at suppressing and repel foreign aggression, as well as having counter-terrorism and domestic internal security dimensions.
However, the U.S. has said the exercise is aimed at inciting tension in an already precarious situation where around 120,000 Russian military personnel are reportedly massed on that country's border with Ukraine, while anti-aircraft missile units are being deployed from the Russian far east, to take part in the exercise, in addition to the involvement of 12 Su-35 fighter jets.
Belarusian General Viktor Gulevich said in late January that the Russian troops would leave Belarus once the exercise was over, a claim reiterated by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
The Estonian foreign ministry said late last week that Belarus' reply to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania's appeal to the OSCE for clarity on military exercises in Belarus had been "insufficient".
The three countries lodged the appeal, formally delivered by Lithuania, under the terms of the OSCE's Vienna Document, which permits all 57 member states to request exercise information as a confidence-building measure if another member state's troop movements are cause for concern.
The three Baltic States requested details on the number and nature of military personnel and equipment in use in the exercises, Defense News reported.
Editor: Andrew Whyte