On Monday, Belarus declared that the joint air force drills it is embarking on with Russia are meant for defensive purposes. However, the maneuvers are occurring as fears heighten that Moscow is attempting to persuade Minsk to enter the conflict in Ukraine.

“The exercise is purely defensive in nature,” said Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council.

From Monday, Russian military aviation personnel will participate in drills with their ally, Belarus. Until Feb. 1, the drills will encompass practice in “aerial surveillance, blocking air raids, protecting significant structures and communications,” Muraveyko further noted.

With this, fears have been spurred in Kyiv and the West that Russia might employ Belarus as a way to activate a new assault on Ukraine as a result of recent developments. In our previous SOFREP report, we discussed the possibility of Russia carrying out false flag operations to trigger Belarus’ engagement in the war.