Russian President Vladimir Putin has mobilized a group of 10,200 soldiers in Belarus, according to Ukrainian intelligence, as the war in Ukraine heads into its 308th day.
The Russian leader has sparked speculation in the past that he may ask his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, to start a new front in the war along the Belarus-Ukraine border.
So far, Belarus has acted as a “co-belligerent” in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, providing Russia with territory, military bases and hospitals to support its invasion of Ukraine but without getting its own troops involved.
Serhii Deineko, the head of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, said Wednesday that the thousands of Russian troops arranged in Belarus were not enough for Russia to launch an attack on Ukraine, according to a report from the Ukrainska Pravda news outlet.
“It is unable to carry out the task of a repeated offensive on the territory of our state,” Deineko said, according to an English translation.
According to Deineko, Ukrainian intelligence monitors the situation in Belarus daily. He added that Ukrainian officials are helped by “unofficial assistants” to keep watch on Russia’s movement in its northern neighbor, Ukrainska Pravda reported.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) previously reported that Russia may be “setting conditions” to launch a new attack on Kyiv. However, the think tank stated in its report Tuesday that the risk of such an attack from Belarusremains low.
According to the ISW, the Ukrainian General Staff also reiterated this week that it has not observed Russian troops in Belarus to be forming a “strike group,” and spokesman for the State Border Guard Service Andriy Demchenko said Tuesday that the “situation on the Belarusian border remains under control.”
Demchenko added that Russia and Belarus were “deliberately causing tensions” along the northern border of Ukraine through joint training exercises and equipment deployments, the ISW reported.
Putin has raised concerns at the White House as well, including after meeting with Lukashenko early last week. At the time, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the U.S. was continuing to “monitor Russia’s force posture closely.”
The ISW reported Tuesday that the Russian and Belarusian presidents had met again in St. Petersburg this week but noted that the readouts from the meeting were “vague and do not indicate any significant activity.” Newsweek previously reported that Putin said the meeting was informal, but the two leaders discussed “serious issues.”
Newsweek reached out to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for comment.