Belarus, a close ally of Russia, launched began large-scale military drills on Wednesday to test its readiness for combat, the defence ministry said in a statement. The exercises were not announced previously.

Belarus had previously joined Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022. Minsk’s armed forces launched an attack from the northern borders of Ukraine, according to reports from Reuters.

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According to separate statements released by the Belarussian government, President Alexander Lukashenko has maintained close contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders last spoke on Tuesday and reportedly discussed the ongoing Russian operation in Ukraine.

“It is planned that the (combat readiness) test will involve the movement of significant numbers of military vehicles, which can slow down traffic on public roads”, the statement from the Belarussian defence ministry read, according to Reuters reports.

The ministry went ahead and clarified that the new military drills were not meant to signal any threats to its neighbouring countries or other European nations.

Minsk had backed Moscow for its “special operation” in Ukraine, however, the country’s participation has taken a hit since Russia decided to focus on the Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine. Belarus shares its borders with Northern regions of Ukraine.

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United States Department of Defense previously accused Belarus of aiding Russian forces early in April. At this time, Moscow had ordered its armed personnel to retreat, regroup and prepare for a new phase of the attack. 

“We do begin to see them consolidating in Belarus. What we continue to believe is that they’re going to be refit, resupplied, perhaps maybe even reinforced with additional manpower, and then sent back into Ukraine to continue fighting elsewhere”, an unnamed Pentagon official told AFP.