‘It is only the first step. As time has gone on there will be more Russian troops in Belarus,’ military expert Aliaksandr Alesin told Belsat TV.
Russia is founding its first air base in Belarus which will be located in the town of Lida, not far from the Polish-Lithuanian border, and it is to begin functioning in 2013, Lieutenant-General Viktor Bondarev, commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Forces, said today.
‘The creation of a Russian air base in Belarus is a result of the fulfillment of an intergovernmental agreement on the strengthening of the military component of the Union State, which we have a duty to fulfill. As a member of the Union State, Russia has a duty to form and have its air base there,’ ria.ru quotes him as saying.
Being asked whether the air base will be purely Russian or it will be Russian-Belarusian, Bondarev answered: ‘First it will be Russian and then we’ll see’.
According to Mr Alesin, as Russia is adversely interested in ‘every Belarusian village’s possessing an airplane’ it will aim at retaining control over the military centre. ‘Russia is trying to find out to what extent Belarus is ready for military integration. The number of Russian troops will be gradually increasing taking into account that our country’s war equipment is becoming older and there are no money to purchase something new,’ he said.
‘The base is to be located in the town of Lida, in the north-west of Belarus. The base will be equipped by the Belarusian side, and we are going to assist them in that. The air base will be an important element of the first strategic defense echelon of the Union State, protecting the Belarusian airspace,’ the commander-in-chief said.
There is no need building any military facilities on the aerodrome in Lida because ‘it has all that is necessary’, Viktor Bondarev said. It is for this reason that the air base is to be located in Lida, because the base in Baranavichy may be overloaded, Mr Alesin believes.
Commenting on the perspectives of strengthening the air group at the base, Mr Bondarev said: ‘So far we are going to place Su-27SMZ destroyers there and then we will see the results and will make a final decision.’ ‘Their primary mission might be interception but these destroyers are well-equipped, which provides the opportunity to use them in attacks,’ Aliaksaindr Alesin stressed.
The Russian air base in Belarus is to start functioning this year, Bondarev said. The Belarusian side has not commented on the Russian Lieutenant General’s statement yet.
Russia plans to deploy a fighter jet regiment in Belarus by 2015, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said at the meeting with Aliaksandr Lukashenka on April 23. According to him, the Kremlin is about to make such a step “to enhance the defense capability of our Belarusian colleagues and brothers”. Under an agreement between the presidents of the two countries four divisions of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems will be supplied to Belarus in 2014. Moreover, Russia and Belarus are establishing a Single Regional System of Air Defense to protect the airspace and borders of the Belarusian-Russian Union State. Finally, West 2013, a large-scale Belarusian-Russian military exercise is to be held in September.