In the midst of rising tensions over Ukraine, Russia dispatched two long-range nuclear-capable bombers on patrol over its ally Belarus on Saturday. During a four-hour flight, the two Tu-22M3 bombers conducted contact with Belarusian air force and air defense forces, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. A number of similar operations across Belarus, that shares a northern boundary with Ukraine, preceded the trip.
The operation began as the Kremlin sent soldiers from Siberia and the Far East to Belarus to participate in large-scale joint drills. The action bolstered Russia's military expansion near Ukraine, stoking fears of an attack from the West. Russia has dismissed intentions to strike Ukraine, but has asked the US and its allies to make a firm commitment not to admit Ukraine to NATO, install offensive weapons, or reduce alliance deployments in Eastern Europe, but Washington and NATO rejected the requests. The West has requested that Russia evacuate an estimated 100,000 troops from areas near Ukraine, but Russia's response has been to warn that troops will be stationed wherever they are needed on Russian soil. As fears over Ukraine have increased, the Russian military has begun a series of war exercises ranging from the Arctic to the Black Sea.
Russian military being stationed in Belarus has aroused concerns in the West that Moscow could conduct an invasion from the north on Ukraine. Kiev, Ukraine's capital lies barely 75 km (50 miles) from the Belarusian border. In recent days, Russia has conducted a number of joint drills with Belarus and dispatched nuclear-capable long-range bombers to monitor the airspace over Belarus, which neighbours NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. In the wake of heavy Western sanctions prompted by his assault on domestic demonstrators, Belarus' autocrat, Alexander Lukashenko, has pushed for greater defence relations with Kremlin, even offering to harbour Russian nuclear arms. As fears of a Russian invasion rose, Ukrainian officials organised a series of drills to prepare locals for a possible invasion.
In the midst of the Ukraine crisis, US President Joe Biden has dispatched 2,000 US troops to Poland and Germany, as well as 1,000 more from Germany to Romania, in a show of support for NATO's eastern flank. President Vladimir Putin previously stated last week that Kremlin is open to further discussions with the US and NATO allies. French President Emmanuel Macron will tour Moscow and Kyiv on Monday and Tuesday as part of high-level dialogue to ease tensions, whereas German Chancellor Olaf Scholz would travel to Kyiv and Moscow on February 14-15. Amid tensions with the West, Putin visited the inauguration of the Winter Games in Beijing on Friday and talked with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthen bilateral ties. Putin and Xi released a joint statement against NATO expansion while emphasizing that Taiwan is a part of China.
History: Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Russia began massing thousands of fighters and military hardware near its Ukrainian border in March - April 2021, marking the country's largest army mobilization since the invasion of Crimea in 2014. This sparked an international conflict and raised fears of an invasion. The current situation is the result of the long-running Russo-Ukrainian War, which began in early 2014. In December 2021, Russia presented two draught treaties containing queries for "security guarantees," including a legally binding promise that Ukraine would not join NATO, and also a slight decrease in NATO forces and military equipment stationed in Eastern Europe, and threatened an undefined military response if such demands were not met in full. Some analysts have referred to the crisis as the most severe ever since end of the Cold War.
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