Belarus Holds Military Drills As Putin Reportedly Prepares To Officially Launch War On Ukraine

(MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Diana Glebova White House Correspondent
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Belarus, Russia’s only major ally in Europe, launched a set of “surprise” military drills Wednesday in order to test the capability of the troops to “react rapidly to a possible crisis,” according to a statement from its ministry of defense.

“The aim is to evaluate the readiness and ability of troops to react rapidly to a possible crisis,” the statement said, according to the Moscow Times. The statement said they were “surprise” exercises intended to test the military’s ability to “go on the alert, move to predetermined zones and undertake combat training,” according to the outlet.

U.S. and British officials have said that Russia may officially launch a war on Ukraine May 9, Russia’s “Victory Day” commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, moving away from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial claims of a “special military operation.”

“I think he will try to move from his ‘special operation,’” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said April 28. “He’s been rolling the pitch, laying the ground for being able to say ‘look, this is now a war against Nazis, and what I need is more people. I need more Russian cannon fodder.’”

“I would not be surprised, and I don’t have any information about this, that he is probably going to declare on this May Day that ‘we are now at war with the world’s Nazis and we need to mass mobilise the Russian people,'” he added.

State Department spokesman Ned Price did not say if the U.S. had any evidence of Russia’s plans for May 9, but did mention he has “good reason to believe that the Russians will do everything they can to use the date in terms of their propaganda effort” on that day.

Ukraine has claimed Russian and Belarusian troops have been coming across Belarus’ border since Russia’s invasion Feb. 24. (RELATED: ‘His Legs Were Gone‘: Canadian Sniper Wali Describes Worst Day Of Fighting In Ukraine)

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Border Service said that Ukraine would be “ready” if Belarus was to join the war.

“We do not rule out that the Russian Federation could at some point use the territory of Belarus, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, against Ukraine,” Andriy Demchenko said, according to Reuters.

“Therefore, we are ready,” he added.