Russia expelled the deputy head of the mission at the US Embassy in Moscow, in what the US called “an escalation”.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko inspects drills held by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at the Osipovichsky training ground in the Mogilev region, Belarus, February 17.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko inspects drills held by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at the Osipovichsky training ground in the Mogilev region of Belarus, on February 17. (Sergei Sheleg / BelTA / Reuters)

During the joint Russia-Belarusian exercise, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen on Thursday that Western intelligence was “useless,” while also talking about the possible threat of an attack from Belarusian territory towards Ukraine.

“You have to admit – if you have any shame – that you missed this stage in the eyes of the entire global community. You accused Belarus and Russia that we invaded Ukraine yesterday. We didn’t. So your intelligence and the billions of dollars that you are spending on it are in vain. At least admit this! ‘ said Lukashenko.

Lukashenko reaffirmed his support for Russia’s position, saying that the two countries had “established a de facto united army”.

“We have an agreement between Belarus and Russia, in fact we have formed here a unified Russian-Belarusian group, a united army, you might say. And this is our official location. Take that into account because we are taking your position into account,” said Lukashenko.

The President of Belarus continued to ask about the legitimacy of Western military experts in Ukraine.

“And on a broader topic – what are you doing here, thousands of kilometers [away]? ,” Lukashenko said.

“Your [military] experts in Ukraine? Are your troops stationed in Poland, in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia? What do you have here? Thousands of kilometers away! So you shouldn’t be against us. For example, there is no military of ours in Canada or Mexico, such as infantry. So stay calm,” he said.

Some background: Western officials have expressed skepticism about Russian announcements that some the army has gathered close to the border with Ukraine are returning to their base. New satellite images from Maxar Technologies on Wednesday show that in some areas near Ukraine, Russian forces are consolidating and replenishing their positions. Some units gathered in camps in southern Belarus have been disbanded.

The satellite images also showed new road construction work and a tactical bridge under construction across an important river in Belarus, less than four miles from the Ukrainian border, as sources said. that Russian military forces are continuing to encircle Ukraine on three sides.

Western military and intelligence officials are closely monitoring the construction as part of the support infrastructure Russia is implementing ahead of a potential invasion, three sources familiar with the matter said. told CNN. It is not clear whether Russian or Belarusian forces are building the bridge. Belarus is Russia’s closest international ally in the stalemate and is currently hosting Russian troops and equipment as part of what Russia says are “exercises”.

Katie Bo Lills, Natasha Bertrand, Tim Lister and Paul Murphy of CNN contributed reporting to this post.

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