Russian-Belarusian military air exercises began Monday in Belarus, an ally of Russia, amid Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, Minsk said, assuring they were “defensive” in nature.
These maneuvers are taking place as Moscow seeks to include Minsk in its military action against Ukraine, as Belarus, according to many observers, already serves as a base for Russian forces.
“From January 16 to February 1, 2023, tactical air exercises will be held with the participation of Belarusian and Russian air force units (…),” the Belarusian Ministry of Health said in a press release.
“All airfields and firing ranges of the air force and anti-aircraft defense” of the Belarusian army will take part in these maneuvers, the same source says.
“The main objective of this exercise is to strengthen operational compatibility” between the two armies, the ministry added.
Russian air force units have arrived in Belarus in recent days to take part in these exercises, the ministry said, without specifying the number of soldiers involved.
In October, Belarus announced the formation of a joint force with Russia, and several thousand Russian soldiers arrived in this former Soviet republic.
This operation had raised fears about the participation of Belarusian troops in the offensive against Ukraine.
Belarus served as a retreat for Russian troops in this offensive launched in February 2022, but the Belarusian army has not yet taken part in the fighting on Ukrainian territory.
The maneuvers that began on Monday were “purely defensive,” assured on Sunday a high-ranking official of the Belarusian Security Council, Pavel Mouraveïko.