Live updates: Belarus-Poland border crisis traps thousands in “catastrophic” conditions

Russia and Belarus are flexing their military might for a second time this week as they hold joint paratrooper drills near the Polish border on Friday.

The exercises are being held “in connection with the buildup of military activity near the State Border of the Republic of Belarus,” according to a statement from the Belarusian Defense Ministry

Some 15,000 Polish soldiers have been deployed to Poland’s border with Belarus recently, in reaction to the tense standoff there.

“Today, joint tactical airborne paratroopers from the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus and the Airborne Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation as part of a combined battalion tactical group are landing at the Gozhsky training ground,” the statement said.

Belarusian and Russian paratroopers will perform a number of combat training tasks, it added.

Russia, Belarus’ largest (and most important) political and economic partner, has defended Minsk’s handling of the border crisis while also denying any involvement in it.

On Wednesday, Russian and Belarusian forces performed joint military exercises over Belarus airspace.

The two long-range Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range bombers practiced “issues of interaction with ground control points” with armed forces of both countries, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is also scaling up security around border with Belarus. On Thursday, it announced it would hold military drills with some 8,500 servicemen and 15 helicopters in an area near its borders with Poland and Belarus to counter a potential migrant crisis.

Some wider context: The crisis at the Poland-Belarus border is continuing to test a fragile political order, with allegations from the United States on Russia’s military buildup this week deepening concerns over the potential for a wider geopolitical crisis.

On Wednesday the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the US is “concerned by reports of unusual Russian military activity” and mentioned the possibility that Russia may be “attempting to rehash” its 2014 invasion of Ukraine. 

On Friday, Russia called allegations that it could invade Ukraine “empty, groundless escalation of tensions.”

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