VILNIUS – The Lithuanian Armed Forces have raised their readiness status due to the upcoming military drills in Belarus that will also involve Russian troops, Chief of Defense Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupsys confirmed in an interview with BNS on Monday.
As Russia has been massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders for some time now, the military maneuvers in Belarus, scheduled for February 10-20, are adding to the West's concerns about security in Central and Eastern Europe.
According to NATO, around 30,000 Russian troops will be deployed in Belarus.
"Yes, it has," Rupsys told BNS when asked if the Lithuanian Armed Forces' readiness status has been heightened.
"The level of alert (is being raised) so that we can respond to the changing situation or a possible threat to us and be in the right place with the required capabilities," he said.
The refresher training of active reserve troops has been brought forward this year, partly in response to the security situation in the region, according to the chief of defense.
Rupsys said he was "deeply convinced" that some of the Russian troops will remain in Belarus after the drills.
He said, however, that Lithuania is currently facing no direct security threats from Belarus.
Russia denies that it is planning an incursion into Ukraine, but demands that NATO deny membership to countries such as Ukraine and Georgia and scale back its forces in Eastern Europe.
The Alliance insists that it will not negotiate on its fundamental principles, such as the defense of all NATO allies or its open-door policy.