Russia-Belarus joint drills trigger concerns in northern Ukraine

Scheduled joint drills between Russian and Belarusian forces have raised concern in Chernihiv, Ukraine's northern region bordering Belarus.

Belarus's defense ministry has announced the two countries will conduct joint air force drills from Monday through February 1. Minsk reportedly says the exercise is purely defensive in nature.

Russia staged part of its Ukraine invasion last February from Belarus.

A 40-year-old Ukrainian woman expressed fear, saying she hopes her country's forces will protect Chernihiv so Russian forces do not cross the Belarus border again.

A 74-year-old man said he hopes Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is not so senseless that he would allow his country's forces to attack Ukraine.

Some local residents were seen filling their cars at gas stations in case they had to evacuate. One said he wanted to be able to go to a safe location if Belarus and Russia launch attacks.

Other residents were home making preparations. Liudmyla Adamenko said she had evacuated to a town in central Ukraine when Russia launched its invasion last February.

After learning of the planned joint drills on social media, she started getting ready to flee again. She has packed bags with passports, winter clothing, a smartphone charger and other necessary items.

Her husband, a doctor, was drafted last week. She said she plans to drive to a central Ukrainian town with her two sons if she has to evacuate.

Adamenko said although she believes Ukrainian forces will protect the borders, hearing about the joint drills has frightened her.