Ukraine allows foreign forces to join planned 2022 military drills

Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces drive tanks towards a pontoon bridge before crossing the Aidar River during military drills near Novoaidar in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Oleksandr Klymenko

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s parliament approved on Tuesday a draft law that allows foreign troops to take part in military exercises on the territory of the former Soviet republic in 2022, a move likely to infuriate Russia.

According to the draft law, submitted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine plans to hold 10 large military exercises next year.

Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, has stepped up military cooperation with Western countries amid an increase in hostile activity by Russia and its proxies that has raised the risk of open war between the two neighbors.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of deploying some 90,000 troops along their long shared border. Moscow says its moves are purely defensive and that it has the right to move forces around its own territory as it sees fit.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Anatoliy Petrenko told parliament before the vote that 21,000 Ukrainians and 11,500 military personnel from the United States, Britain, Poland, Romania and other countries would participate in exercises on land, at sea and in the air.

“Conducting multinational exercises on the territory will help to strengthen national defense capabilities and support political and diplomatic efforts to maintain stability in the region,” said Petrenko.

There was no immediate response on Tuesday from Russia to the Ukrainian parliament’s approval of the draft law.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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