Minsk has joined the Kremlin's campaign of putting pressure on Kyiv.
Joint Belarusian-Russian military exercises began on Friday in Belarus. Official Minsk says it is a reaction to NATO's presence in Poland and the Baltic States, but independent experts don't doubt the real reason is additional leverage on Ukraine, Gazeta Wyborcza writes.
Defeating air attacks was practiced during testing the readiness of the Belarusian-Russian air defence. Belarusian air defence units were put on alert to control Belarus's air space. Russian Su-27 jets and Belarusian MiG aircraft practiced aircraft interception and defence of cargo aircraft. Russian airborne early warning aircraft A-50 was involved in the exercises.
“Most of the aircraft at all duty aerodromes of Belarus were involved in the exercises,” said Colonel Andrei Dzikanyou, who is in charge of the maneuvers.
“The military exercises mean Russia tries to drag other states into its aggression against Ukraine,” a spokesman for the Ukrainian MFA, Yevhen Perebyinis, said.
The Belarusian Foreign Affairs Ministry said in response that the maneuvers were not aimed at Ukraine, but were a reaction to NATO's increased presence near the Belarusian borders.
Besides the exercises of the air defence forces, maneuvres of land troops were carried out at Hozha firing range near the Polish border. According to the Belarusian Defence Ministry, it was scheduled drills. Armoured troops of the subdivisions of the Western Operative Command of the Belarusian Army had firing exercises.
“The initiative to hold the exercises obviously comes from Russia. It is a part of the pressure campaign carried out by the Kremlin against Ukraine. Lukashenka behaved as a faithful ally of Russia and showed his readiness to move in the direction pointed by the Kremlin despite his statements on the recognition of Ukraine's territorial integrity,” politologist Pavel Usov is confident.