President Vladimir Putin has visited Russia's closest ally for the first time in three years. His trip to Belarus on Monday fanned fears he is preparing for a new offensive in neighboring Ukraine.
Putin has met repeatedly during the invasion with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. He said he traveled to the capital, Minsk, to coordinate economic policies. He refuted suggestions the Russians want to "absorb" anyone.
"Those unscrupulous outside critics either don't know what they are talking about, or they are deliberately misleading people who don't know much," said Putin.
The leaders agreed their forces would continue to train together. The Russians have used Belarus as a launch pad for attacks on Ukraine. But Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said suggestions that Belarusian troops might join in the fighting are "groundless."
Ukrainian leaders said they are prepared for any scenario. They saw Russian forces attack again in and around the capital, Kyiv. Ukrainian Air Force officials said they managed to shoot down 30 of 35 drones. But they were unable to prevent more damage to the power grid.