21 Feb 2022 11:06

Russian forces to return to base only when there is such objective necessity - Belarusian General Staff chief

MOSCOW. Feb 21 (Interfax) - Russian forces will return to base only when there is such objective necessity, Belarusian General Staff Chief Maj. Gen. Viktor Gulevich said at a briefing for foreign military attaches on Monday.

"Given the intensifying military activity on the external border of the Union State and the escalating tensions in Donbas, the presidents of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation have decided to extend the preparedness check of the Union State's rapid response forces," Gulevich said at a briefing that was timed to coincide with Defender of the Fatherland Day.

"Units of the Russian Armed Forces will return to their bases only when there is such objective necessity and when we decide they should do so. This is a strictly internal affair of ours," Gulevich said.

"That will also depend on our Western colleagues to a large extent," he said

"The forces and hardware deployed in the East European region, including those in the vicinity of the Belarusian border, are one of the factors influencing further events," Gulevich said.

"Therefore, the Republic of Belarus has the right to demand that contingents of the United States and certain NATO member states be withdrawn from the borders of Belarus and the Union State and the withdrawal process be verified," he said.

The Union Resolve 2022 largescale exercise of Russia and Belarus began on February 10. A number of units and formations of the Russian Eastern Military District were deployed to Belarus for the exercise, which was supposed to end on February 20. Moscow and Minsk said that the forces would go back to barracks once the exercise was over.

Yet Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said on Sunday that the presidents of Russia and Belarus decided to extend the preparedness check because of the intensifying military activity near the Union State border and the growing tensions in Donbas.

The exercises are taking place against the backdrop of a crisis in Russia-NATO relations. The United States, other NATO members and Ukraine have claimed a Russian military buildup near the Ukrainian border and a threat of Russian invasion. Moscow has repeatedly denied having aggressive plans in regard to Ukraine.