Russia bolsters military presence on western border amid U.S. tensions
Katherine Berjikian
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a two-day summit. /Reuters/Sputnik/Sergei Ilyin/Kremlin

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a two-day summit. /Reuters/Sputnik/Sergei Ilyin/Kremlin


Russia is increasing its military presence along its western border after U.S. President Joe Biden said he would press Russia to respect human rights during their next summit in June.

"The Americans must assume that a number of signals from Moscow ... will be uncomfortable for them, including in the coming days," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA news agency in response.

He added that Moscow is prepared to answer questions about human rights and that Russia is being more flexible about the summit's agenda than Washington.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has also accused the U.S. and NATO of increasing their military presence to the west of Russia.


"The actions of our Western colleagues are destroying the world's security system and force us to take adequate countermeasures," Shoigu said to the Interfax news agency.

"Around 20 military formations and units will be formed in the Western Military District by the end of the year," he added. 

The relationship between Russia and the U.S. has been particularly strained ahead of the summit, in part because of the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a military build-up in Ukraine and alleged election hacking.

Russia has also steadily become closer to Belarus after the country grounded a Ryanair commercial flight and arrested a 26-year-old dissident journalist, Roman Protasevich.

Belarus's leading opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has since accused Belarus of torturing Protasevich, though she has not released proof. 

The EU then condemned the grounding of the flight and arrest, calling it "aviation piracy."

Several European countries have also banned flights from the Belarusian airline Belavia and the EU has encouraged airlines to avoid Belarus's airspace.

And on Monday, Air France said two scheduled flights from Moscow were canceled after Russia refused to authorize alternative air routes to avoid Belarus.

However, Russia has actively defended Belarus and said that Moscow will help if the EU imposes sanctions. And Moscow recently agreed to release a second $500 million loan to Belarus.

The instalment was part of a larger $1.5 billion loan pledge made by Russia last year.

Source(s): AFP ,Reuters

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