By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia and Belarus will hold joint war games early next year. Putin welcomed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s proposal to hold another round of military drills. Putin said they could be held in February or March. He was speaking during Wednesday’s meeting with Lukashenko in St. Petersburg. Putin added that military officials will coordinate details. Putin’s announcement comes amid a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that raised Western fears of an invasion. Some officials in Ukraine have voiced concern that Russia could also use Belarusian territory to attack the country. Russia has denied an intention to launch an offensive, but urged the U.S. and its allies to provide guarantees that NATO doesn’t expand to Ukraine.