Russia has started a joint military exercise with its neighbouring country Belarus, as tensions with Ukraine continue to mount.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the Union Courage-2022 exercise began at the combined arms ranges of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus.

The exercise will involve activities aimed to repel external aggression, as well as counter-terrorism operations.

The military drills will be conducted at the Domanovsky, Gozhsky, Obuz-Lesnovsky, Brestsky, and Osipovichi ranges, as well as in other areas of Belarus. The airfields located at Baranovichi, Luninets, Lida, and Machulishchi will also be used.

The ten-day exercise will end on 20 February.

The Russian contingent includes command bodies, units, and military units of the Eastern Military District. The Russian Defence Ministry did not provide an exact figure for the number of troops participating in the drill.

“The number of participants in the event, as well as the number of main weapons systems subject to the Vienna Document of 2011, do not exceed the parameters defined by it, which are subject to notification,” the statement added.

Last week, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters that Russia is expected to have approximately 30,000 soldiers in Belarus. The contingent may also include SU-35 fighter jets, S-400 air defence systems, and nuclear-capable Iskander missiles.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are high due to a heavy deployment of Russian forces on the latter’s border. Efforts to defuse the situation are also continuing.

Last month, it was reported that the US and the UK offered defensive security assistance to Ukraine.