Belarus, Russia to start 'defensive in nature' air force drills, Minsk says

Belarus, Russia to start
# 16 January 2023 04:28 (UTC +04:00)

Belarus said its air force drills with Russia that start on Monday are defensive in nature to prepare for possible combat missions, but the move comes as concerns grow that Moscow is pushing Minsk to join the war in Ukraine, APA reports citing Reuters.

"The exercise is purely defensive in nature," said Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of Belarusian Security Council, according to a post on the Belarusian defence ministry's Telegram app on Sunday.

"It will be a set of measures to prepare our and Russian aviation to carry out the relevant combat missions."

The exercises which will last until Feb. 1 are to involve training for "aerial reconnaissance, deflecting air strikes, air cover of important objects and communications", Muraveyko added.

This has triggered fears in Kyiv and the West that Russia could use its dutiful ally to mount a new ground offensive on Ukraine.

Ukraine has continuously warned of possible attacks from Belarus and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week that the country must be ready at its border with Belarus.

The Kremlin has denied that it has been pressuring Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to take a more active role in the conflict in Ukraine. Minsk has said it will not enter the war.