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Lithuania says Russian troops in Belarus pose “direct threat”

Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas participates in military exercise "Silver Arrow" in Adazi, Latvia 13 September 2021. REUTERS / Ints Kalnins

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VILNIUS, January 19 (Reuters) - Russian troops arriving in Belarus for what Moscow and Minsk say will be joint military exercises are a direct threat to NATO member Lithuania and could force Washington to station more troops in the region, he said. Lithuanian Minister of Defense.

Russian military forces and hardware began arriving in former Soviet Belarus on Monday for "Allied Resolve" exercises to be held near Belarus's western border with NATO members Poland and Lithuania and close to its southern flank with Ukraine. Read more

"In the current situation, we consider the entry of Russian military forces into Belarus not only as a destabilizing factor for the security situation, but also as an even greater direct threat to Lithuania," wrote the Minister, Arvydas Anusauskas, on Facebook.

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Anusauskas called on NATO and the United States to respond by moving more troops into the region.

"I think the United States is moving additional capabilities to Europe now, certainly in the works, because the situation requires it," he told reporters.

Russian troops have expressed concern that they could "potentially" be used to attack neighboring Ukraine, a senior Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.

The US administration is concerned that the Russian deployment could lead to the placement of Russian nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil, some news agencies reported on Tuesday.

Anusauskas said Russia had had nuclear weapons in its Kaliningrad enclave between NATO members Lithuania and Poland "for a long time", so their deployment in Belarus "would not radically change the situation".

"We say clearly: Russia has these (nuclear) capabilities next to NATO countries, about 100 km from our borders," he said.

Russia said in 2018 that it was deploying nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad. The Iskander missiles have a range of 500 km (300 miles) and can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.

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Report by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Edited by Alison Williams, William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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