Russia’s troops will return to their permanent bases once an “objective need” to do so arises, the Belarusian chief of general staff said on Monday. 

”Russian troops will return to their permanent bases only when there is an objective need for that and we determine that ourselves. This is solely our internal matter,” Russia’s state-run TASS news agency quoted Viktor Gulevich as saying.

Speaking at a briefing for foreign military attaches, Gulevich said the timeframe for the return of troops to Russia depends to a large extent on the Western countries’ actions.

”The forces that have been deployed to Eastern Europe, including near the Belarusian state border, are one of the factors that influence any further developments,” Gulevich noted.

Belarussian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said on Sunday that the joint military drills of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus will continue beyond their original schedule due to rising tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Khrenin said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had decided to continue “inspections of the readiness of Union State forces,” between the two countries.

The Russian-Belarusian military drill — dubbed the Allied Determination-2022 — had originally been planned to last 10 days and take place across five training areas in western and southwestern Belarus, near the country’s borders with Poland and Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had announced earlier that the drills would end on Sunday.

Tensions have risen dramatically in eastern Ukraine in recent days, with reports of a growing number of cease-fire violations, multiple shelling incidents, and evacuation of civilians from the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Western countries have accused Russia of amassing nearly 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, prompting fears that it could be planning a military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any plan to invade Ukraine and instead accused Western countries of undermining Russia’s security through NATO’s expansion toward its borders.

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