Ukrainian military leader says Russia left troops in Belarus after war games

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The Ukrainian army chief of staff said Russia left troops in Belarus after holding military exercises there, despite Moscow’s pledge not to do so, Reuters reports.

Comments by Viktor Muzhenko in an interview with the news agency on September 29 could further exacerbate tensions between Moscow and Kiev, which are stuck in an impasse over Russia’s 2014 seizure of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The assertion also contradicts a declaration by the Belarusian Defense Ministry, which said that the last train of Russian troops to have participated in the Zapad (West) 2017 military exercises left Belarus on September 28.

“We had information that they had withdrawn only a few units of the 12,500 declared soldiers, of which 3,000 were Russians, but there were many more there,” Muzhenko said, quoted by Reuters.

The September 14-20 war games in Belarus and parts of western Russia raised concerns in neighboring NATO member states already wary of Moscow’s intentions after it took Crimea and meddled military in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow and Minsk said the maneuvers involved some 12,700 troops in the two countries combined, but Western officials said the actual number could be around 100,000.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on the last day of the exercises that all Russian troops involved in the exercises would leave Belarus.

There was no immediate comment from Russia on Muzhenko’s request.

Based on reports from Reuters and the Belarusian service of RFE / RL


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