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2020.09.03 09:54

US battalion deploying to Lithuania for ‘pre-planned’ drills, says defence ministry

BNS, LRT.lt2020.09.03 09:54

An American battalion of some 800–900 troops is arriving in Pabradė, near Vilnius, to take part in a month-long exercise, Lithuanian Armed Forces said on Wednesday.

"They will stay in our country until late September or early October, but no exact date for their departure has been set," said Captain Andrius Dilda, a PR officer at the military.

The US troops are expected to arrive on September 5–6 and will bring 30 to 40 units of heavy military equipment, including Abrams tanks and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, he said.

The Defence Ministry said in a press release that "these exercises of the US troops in Lithuania are pre-planned and not associated with any events in the region".

Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko previously said NATO troops in Poland and Lithuania pose a threat, and put most of the country’s military on combat readiness.

Read more: Lukashenko puts troops on alert, Lithuania says regime ‘trying to divert attention’

NATO, Polish, and Lithuanian officials dismissed the statements as an attempt to divert attention from the brutal regime crackdown on protesters in Belarus.

An armoured US battalion previously deployed to Lithuania on a six-month rotation in October 2019.

The American troops had intended to leave Lithuania in the spring of 2020, but changed their plans due to the coronavirus pandemic and officially completed the mission in mid-June.

At the time, the Belarusian leadership including Alexander Lukashenko said the American presence in Pabradė, which is some 15 kilometres from the Belarusian border, is a threat and vowed to deploy troops in response. Lukashenko later backtracked from the statement.

Read more: Belarus backtracks on proposals to send troops to Lithuanian border