VILNIUS (Reuters) – Russia has amassed 45,000 soldiers in Belarus and their presence is threatening to Baltic states and Poland, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Thursday.
The joint Russian and Belarus military exercise near the Belarus border with Ukraine is scheduled to end on Sunday.
Tensions between Moscow and NATO capitals are high following weeks of United States accusations that Russia has deployed up to 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders for an invasion. Moscow accuses the West of hysteria and denies it wants to invade.
“They amassed 45,000 troops, a lot of military equipment, air forces. And we do not hear very clearly articulated promises that this will be removed to Russian territory after the military exercise ends. This is one more way to keep the tension up”, said Nauseda in a video statement after an EU leaders meeting in Brussels.
“This creates more potential threats now and for Baltic States and Poland,” he added.
Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – as well as Poland are European Union and NATO members.
NATO is looking to increase its military presence in the Baltic states and Poland in case Russia keeps its troops in Belarus after the exercise, the head of the alliance’s military committee said on Feb. 7.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; editing by Grant McCool)