Putin sends elite tank unit to Belarus as fears of new invasion grow

Ukrainian tank appears to destroy Russian tank

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Vladimir Putin has ordered elements of an elite Russian tank unit to Belarus to participate in training exercises. The move has added to fears that Moscow is looking to launch a new invasion on Kyiv from Belarus in the coming weeks. It also comes as the Russian President is scheduled to meet with his Belarusian counterpart on Monday in Minsk.

Analysts believe that Putin will try to pressure Lukashenko into committing Belarusian troops to the war with Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Military Intelligence, the GUR, has been warning of a build-up of Russian troops in Belarus for the past few months.

In September, the GUR said they expected as many as 20,000 Russian conscripts to be sent to the country for military training.

Intelligence officers have now confirmed that units from Russia’s elite 1st Tank Army have been sent to Belarus to practice their combat coordination.

Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov, a Deputy Chief of the General Staff, told the media at a recent press conference: “As part of the deployment of the regional grouping of the allied state, the Russian units of the 2nd Motorised Rifle Division of the 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District are undergoing training and combat coordination.”

He added that Belarusian military instructors were involved in the training exercises.

The Russian tank division was originally constituted in July 1942 and was heavily involved in fighting on the Eastern front during World War 2.

It took part in both the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk, gaining legendary status in the process.

Disbanded in 1998, it was subsequently reconstituted in 2014 as part of a Russian military expansion.

The 1st Tank Army suffered massive losses during the Kharkiv counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces this autumn.

The unit also sustained heavy casualties in fighting in Sumy and the eastern Kyiv region.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence believes that the impact of these losses is so severe that it will “take years” to restore the battalion to full strength.

Ukraine’s General Staff also reported that Russian conscripts based in Belarus were becoming ever more concerned about their deployment in the country.

The soldiers have been complaining that their officers are refusing to provide information on both the terms of their training and the duration of their stay in Belarus.

Brigadier General Gromov warned that Moscow continued to send military equipment and weapons to their units in Belarus.

These included tanks and MiG fighter jets that are able to fire hypersonic missiles.

He explained: “Last week one battalion set of tanks each was moved to the Obuz-Lesnovsky and Losvido training grounds.

“This week, the enemy dropped three MiG-31K aircraft carrying Kinjal hypersonic missiles, as well as an A-50U long-range radar detection aircraft, at the Machulischi airfield.

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“This indicates the increase of the aggressor’s ability to carry out airstrikes on the territory of Ukraine.”

Putin’s army failed miserably to capture Kyiv after it invaded the country on February 24 and was forced to give up its attempts to seize the capital.

Despite fears that another attempt is imminent, analysts working for the Washington thinktank the Institute for the Study of War believe any future attack on Kyiv will likely end in abject failure.

They said: “Russian forces are extremely unlikely to be more successful at attacking northern Ukraine in the winter of 2023 than they were in February 2022.

“Russia’s conventional forces are badly degraded and lack the combat power that they had when Russia attempted (and failed) its full-throated effort to capture Kyiv in February 2022.

“Russian forces have been unable to secure their gains across Ukraine and have lost over 70,000 square km of occupied territory since abandoning Kyiv.”

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