The smell of sawdust hangs in the air around a network of neatly dug trenches in a quiet and densely forested area on Ukraine’s border with Belarus.
Freshly cut planks reinforce the 5-foot high earth walls in the channels crisscrossing the forest floor. Every few meters, logs across the top form a kind of shelter, the makeshift roof covered in branches and earth for camouflage.
Ukraine is preparing for battle in this quiet forest clearing less than five minutes driving from the border with Russia’s close ally. Originally built in April, Ukrainian forces continue to update and strengthen defenses such as these trenches, amid reports of Russian troops and armor pouring into Belarus.
On Monday, Belarus and Russia began joint military exercises, adding to fears that Moscow will use its ally to launch a new ground offensive, as it did the invasion in February. Air force drills will be held until Feb. 1 using all of Belarus’ military air fields and joint army exercises involving a “mechanized brigade subdivision,” the Belarusian defense ministry said. [Continue reading…]