Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko has said that joint military maneuvers will be held with Russia in February close to the borders with Ukraine as well as eastern NATO member states.

Speaking during a meeting with Belarusian military officials on January 17, Lukashenko said that the exact dates of the drills had not been determined yet. He did not specify how many troops would be involved.

The secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, Alyaksandr Volfavich, later told the BelTA news agency that Russian military forces and hardware had begun arriving in the country.

The announcement comes as tensions between the West and Moscow have been growing in recent months over the security of Ukraine.

Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops along the border with Ukraine in what Kyiv and its Western allies fear could be preparations for a potential invasion, something Moscow has denied.

Lukashenko said on January 17 that next month’s military exercises with Russia should focus on a scenario in which his country’s military is forced to “resist forces coming from the West”.