RUKLA, Lithuania – The number of Russian troops in Belarus is rapidly approaching 30,000, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Wednesday.
"It is approaching 30,000 very fast and one can see that all these forces are oriented south. All the forces are oriented against Ukraine," the minister told reporters in Rukla, a town in central Lithuania where NATO's enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group is stationed.
"Whether it is part of the exercise or not, it is already being assessed by military experts as an extremely dangerous situation, (...) first of all for Ukraine," he said.
Russia is hiding the real number of troops involved in the drills in Belarus, according to Anusauskas.
In the minister's words, Lithuania has received an invitation to observe the final phase of the exercise/
"We are well aware that most of the time it is just a show and for full transparency we need detailed information about the drills, the number of participants, the composition and equipment," Anusauskas said.
"What we see in Belarus doesn't correspond to the publicly declared figures," he added.
The Kremlin says the Russian troops will leave Belarus after the drills, scheduled for February 10-20, but gives no specific date for their withdrawal.