Russia conducts maneuvers in Belarus and denies the withdrawal of diplomats from Kiev

Russian authorities said on Tuesday that its embassy in Kiev was operating normally, following a New York Times report that Moscow had begun evacuating the families of its diplomatic mission staff. in Ukraine.

The New York Times quoted a Ukrainian official as saying that 18 people, most of them members of the Russian diplomatic family, left Ukraine on January 5.

He also said about 30 more will leave the embassy in Kiev and the consulate in Lviv in western Ukraine in the coming days. The US newspaper also reported that diplomats from two other Russian consulates were told to prepare to leave Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on its consulates in Ukraine, but he told Interfax that his embassy in Kiev was functioning normally.

For its part, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it had not received any information from Moscow in on the evacuation of personnel from its diplomatic sites in Ukraine. He added that Kiev did not have in plans to evacuate Ukrainian diplomats from Russia.

This comes when Belarus announced on Tuesday the arrival of an unspecified number of Russian forces to carry out maneuvers in February. “in combat preparation “, in light of the escalation of tension between it and Western countries and Ukraine.

“The upcoming combat and operational readiness drills are in course due to the deterioration of the political-military situation in the world and the continuing escalation of tension in Europe, in particularly on the western and southern borders of Belarus, “said the Belarusian Ministry of Defense in a declaration.

He added that these are “improvised” Russian-Belarusian exercises and that their scope, which is not specified, does not require informing neighboring countries, in particular Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine, of their details.

The maneuvers will take place in two phases: the first will extend until February 9 and will concern the deployment of Russian and Belarusian forces to “threatened areas”, the mass in security of government and military infrastructure and the protection of airspace.

The second phase, from 10 to 20 February, involves real maneuvers in several military bases in Belarus. It will be called “Design Federation 2022”, in reference to the Russian-Belarusian alliance.

The exercises in Belarus, Moscow’s ally in northern Ukraine, arrives as Russia has already amassed its forces on the Ukrainian border, sparking fears in West of an invasion.

The announcement of the exercises comes as Russia and the United States must decide on the future of their diplomatic path after a series of talks that have failed to defuse the threat of a new conflict in Ukraine.

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