Belarus’s defense minister extended military exercises with Russian forces that were otherwise set to end Sunday, and announced a joint task force to “fight back if necessary.”
The announcement that Russian forces would not return to base as planned contradicted the country’s previous assertion that not a single Russian troop or piece of equipment would remain after the drill. Before the exercise began 10 days ago, Western military analysts warned that it could be cover for an attack force to invade Ukraine from the north and potentially encircle the capital Kyiv.
World leaders continued to push for a diplomatic resolution to the ordeal Sunday, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday saying Biden is prepared to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin “at any time, in any format, if that can help prevent a war.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky forcefully demanded stronger actions from the international community on Saturday as the threat of full-scale invasion intensified amid increased shelling in the eastern separatist regions of his country.
Here’s what to know
- French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin held a call Sunday that the European leader’s office said yielded a potential development toward diplomacy. The two agreed to work on facilitating a contact group meeting in the next few hours to work toward a cease-fire agreement, Macron’s office said. But the Kremlin’s readout of their discussion didn’t mention a possible meeting.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC Sunday that the United Kingdom and the United States could take steps to prevent Russian companies from trading in British pounds and U.S. dollars if Putin invades Ukraine. Zelensky earlier said that possible Western sanctions against Russia should be made public now to deter Moscow.
- Russian and Belarusian leaders said they will “continue checking” joint force readiness as military exercises are extended. Belarus Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin cited the “increase in military activity” near the border and “the aggravation of the situation” in eastern Ukraine.
UNDERSTANDING THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE CRISIS