The exercises, which were scheduled to end on Sunday, were joined by a large group of Russian forces to neighboring Belarus, which borders Ukraine in the north, which raised fears in the West that they could be used to invade the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
The announcement of the extension of the exercises came from the defense minister of Belarus, who said that the two countries “will continue to test response forces,” the Associated Press reported.
Russia conducted nuclear exercises Saturday along with conventional exercises in Belarus, as it is carrying out naval exercises off the coast of the Black Sea.
Western leaders have warned that Russia is preparing to attack its besieged neighbor from three sides with about 150,000 Russian soldiers, warplanes and equipment.
The United States and several European countries have claimed for months that Russia is trying to create pretexts to invade Ukraine, and have threatened massive and immediate sanctions if that happens.
“The big question remains: Does the Kremlin want dialogue?” European Council President Charles Michel said at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.
“We cannot offer an olive branch forever while Russia conducts missile tests and continues to build forces. One thing is certain: If there is another military aggression, we will respond with severe sanctions,” he added.
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to choose a place for the two leaders to meet in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
On Saturday, Zelensky said at the Munich conference that Ukraine “will continue to follow the diplomatic path only for the sake of a peaceful settlement.”
On Saturday, separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilization and sent more civilians to Russia, which has issued about 700,000 passports to residents of rebel-held territory.
Western countries maintain that allegations that Russian citizens are at risk may be used as a justification for military action against Kiev.
The American position
US Vice President Kamala Harris stressed, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, on Sunday, that the possibility of war in Ukraine still exists.
Harris said that there is a “real possibility of war in Europe,” adding that “the question of Ukraine is serious and requires an end to this conflict.”
She stressed the United States’ support for Ukraine, saying: “Our defense of Kiev stems from our belief in America’s values, and we will work to resolve the crisis.”
The US official indicated that her country appreciates the desire of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to join NATO, pointing out that such a matter “requires time, and cannot be done overnight.”
And she continued, “I told Zelensky that we stand with him, and that we reject any external dictation regarding the countries that we agree to join NATO, as Russia does, and that there are guidelines and conditions that must be met.”
Regarding the sanctions that might be imposed on Russia if it invaded Ukraine, Harris revealed that the United States “will escalate its sanctions if Moscow attacks Ukraine. We will evaluate the sanctions and their levels based on Russian actions.”