Russia and Belarus alliance 'could be dangerous' says Wood
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New commercial satellite pictures, taken on Monday, show Russian armoured units and equipment including the elite 1st Guards Tank Army gathering near the Russian town of Yelnya, close to the border of Belarus. The news comes as tensions between Belarus and the EU over the situation at the Polish border threaten to escalate, with thousands of migrants camped in freezing conditions being used as pawns in the conflict.
According to POLITICO, the images, taken by Maxar Technologies, show a buildup of Russian armoured units, tanks and self-propelled artillery along with ground troops.
Equipment from Russia’s 4th Tank Division has been moved to areas around Bryansk and Kursk close to Ukraine’s northern border, amid concerns conflict could reignite in the region.
Tensions have been increasing between Moscow and the West over the past several months.
Russian President Vladimir Putin bristled at fresh talks of Ukraine and Georgia possibly joining NATO as US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited both countries in October.
Now, it appears Russia is prepared to throw its weight behind Belarus as EU officials accuse the nation of a “hybrid attack” against the bloc, combining political and military elements.
Estonian Defence Minister Kalle Laanet said on Wednesday: “The potential for escalation is extremely high.”
Estonian officials said it was easy to connect the dots between the Belarus crisis and the amassing Russian troops.
Mr Laanet said the situation was being “deeply” monitored for risk of a full-blown conflict.
He said: “Of course we can’t say that there is no risk [of full-blown war].
“But we don’t know yet how high this [risk] is at the moment. We have to monitor very deeply every day the situation.”
And Estonian Defence Forces Commander Martin Herem told journalists that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko “appears to have lost his mind”.
He said: “I don’t think that Lukashenko wants to fight a war.
“He doesn’t have enough resources to fight a war, but … some shots are possible.”
Meanwhile, some 2,000 migrants – mostly from Middle Eastern countries – remain stranded in appalling conditions on the Poland-Belarus border.
Activists say the migrants – many of them young men but also women and children – are being used as pawns in a political game while being subjected to inhumane conditions.
As they are summarily expelled from Poland and Belarus refuses to allow them back in, people are finding themselves stranded and freezing in Poland’s forests. Several have died of hypothermia.
The EU has accused Mr Lukashenko of trying to create a fresh migrant crisis in retaliation to sanctions imposed after the brutal crackdown on domestic opposition in Belarus.
German interior minister Horst Seehofer said Mr Lukashenko was “using people’s fates with the support of Russian president Vladimir Putin to destabilise the west”.
He called on the EU to rally together in the face of this threat.
“Poland or Germany can’t handle this alone. We must help the Polish government secure their external border,” he said.
“This would actually be the task of the European Commission. I’m now appealing to them to take action.”
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