German troops arrive to reinforce Baltics amid tensions over Ukraine

The new deployments include artillery, reconnaissance troops and medics from units throughout Germany, with arrivals expected to continue throughout this week.

 Soldiers are seen during German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen's visit to German troops deployed as part of NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle group in Rukla military base, Lithuania February 4, 2019.  (photo credit: REUTERS/INTS KALNINS)
Soldiers are seen during German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen's visit to German troops deployed as part of NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle group in Rukla military base, Lithuania February 4, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/INTS KALNINS)

A German military aircraft carrying troop reinforcements landed at Lithuania's Kaunas airport on Monday, a Reuters eyewitness said, the first of several planned deployments amid fears in the region over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The A400M airplane carried around 70 troops of what is expected to grow to a 360-strong German deployment, which comes on top of existing NATO forces in the region, a spokesperson for the alliance's enhanced forward presence battlegroup said.

The new deployments include artillery, reconnaissance troops and medics from units throughout Germany, with arrivals expected to continue throughout this week.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is due to arrive in Kyiv on Monday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a bid to show solidarity and help avert war. On Tuesday, Scholz will fly to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since 2017, NATO has deployed battlegroups in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, in response to Russia annexing the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

 A general view of the Continental factory in Kaunas, Lithuania December 17, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/ALIUS KOROLIOVAS) A general view of the Continental factory in Kaunas, Lithuania December 17, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ALIUS KOROLIOVAS)

Totalling 5,000 soldiers, the battlegroups are led by Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

German soldiers make up about half of the 1,100 troop-strong battlegroup already present in Lithuania, which also includes troops from Belgium, Czechia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway.