Belarus Holds Military Exercises Near Polish and Lithuanian Borders

( – Belarus started to hold military drills near the borders of Poland and Lithuania on Monday, August 7, as tensions continue to rise due to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s brokering of a peace deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Wagner mercenary group that attempted to overthrow Putin in June.

Both Poland and Lithuania have increased border security due to Belarus agreeing to house thousands of Wagner mercenary soldiers as part of the original peace deal between Putin and Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. The deal allowed Prigozhin to flee in exile to Belarus along with his troops to avoid criminal prosecution by the Russian government.

Putin also made the exception for Wagner forces still wishing to fight in Ukraine, saying that Wagner soldiers can still fight alongside the Russian military so long as they are not taking orders from the Wagner group’s exiled leader.

Both Polish and Lithuanian leaders have said that they are on full alert, as both nations not only border Belarus, but also the small disconnected Russian territory of Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad is as territory that the Russian Federation held onto after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Kaliningrad is a highly militarized and fortified region that borders both Poland and Lithuania. The territory also gives Russia more access to the Baltic Sea.

Belarus is accused of flying two military helicopters briefly into Polish airspace, an allegation the Belarusian government denies. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense stated that the drills are based on military experience from the “special military operation,” the term employed by both Russia and Belarus to refer to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The military drills took place in the Grodno region of Belarus near the Suwalki Gap, which is a stretch of land approximately six miles long across the Polish-Lithuanian border. Both Lithuania and Poland are members of NATO, along with the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, which also border Lithuania.

The Baltic states are former Soviet Republics of the Soviet Union, and Poland is a former satellite state of the Communist Bloc that engulfed most of Eastern Europe from 1945 to the fall of the USSR in 1991.

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