Ukraine has no direct reason to fear that a joint Russia-Belarus military exercise in the latter might escalate into an attack from there, Lt. Col. Tarmo Kundla finds.
"Belarus is hosting an air force and anti-aircraft training exercise for Russian and Belarusian forces to last until early February. Military planes, helicopters and a command aircraft have been moved to Belarus for that reason. The public has been told that the drills will concentrate on air defense, coordination of aerial activities, patrols, close air support and landing support using helicopters," Kundla said during a press briefing at the Estonian Ministry of Defense on Friday.
"That said, we have reason to believe this is not an indication or preparation for a new offensive on Kyiv from Belarus. It is a joint exercise between the two countries' air forces," the colonel said.
News agency Interfax said that the drills, which started on Monday, will see the participants practice defending key national and military objects against aerial attacks, with all military airfields and air force polygons in Belarus involved.
Little change on the front
Little change is apparent on the front in Ukraine and no major breakthroughs are expected to occur next week, Kundla remarked.
"There have been no great changes on the battlefield in Ukraine in the past week. Russian forces have maintained artillery strikes and local offensives along the Donetsk contact line. The directions of attack have not changed: Bakhmut and Avdiivka," the EDF officer said.
Kundla added that Soledar is now largely under Russian control. "Tactical success for which a heavy price has been paid," he remarked.
That said, Ukraine has manned new defensive positions west of Soledar where they have a bigger tactical advantage than they might have had inside the settlement," the colonel added.
Russia is expected to retain efforts to make progress towards Bakhmut with the aim of conquering it.
Russia has brought new soldiers and equipment to the front line. "This will probably continue next week, while we believe it will not see major change."
Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski