Russia plans more aircraft, helicopters at airbase in Belarus — defense minister

Russia plans to increase the number of aircraft and helicopters at the airbase in Belarus in an effort to strengthen joint air space, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Tuesday.

Shoigu held talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Major General Andrey Raukou as part of meetings of statutory bodies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led military alliance of former Soviet states, Russian news agency TASS reports.

“I am ready to discuss today plans to continue our practical cooperation,” Shoigu said. “This concerns S-300 systems, the establishment and deployment of the airbase in Belarus with the increase in the number of aircraft and helicopters,” he said.

Speaking on the level of military cooperation between Russia and Belarus in the air defense sphere, Shoigu said “today we are ahead of everyone else on the post-Soviet space.”

Joint military drills are another important area of bilateral cooperation, Shoigu said. “They have become regular and full-scale,” he said, adding that next year more exercises are planned. The drills codenamed Union Shield-2015, due to be conducted on the Russian territory, are expected to become a major event of joint training of the Armed Forces of Russia and Belarus next year.

The Belarusian defense minister thanked Shoigu for ‘the aid provided by Russia’. Belarus will have all four S-300 air defense systems supplied by Russia on combat duty by October 2015.

As it was reported earlier, Russia intended to put more aircraft and helicopters (up to 12 combat aircraft and two trainer aircraft) on duty in Belarus, Alexander Surikov, Ambassador of Russia to Belarus, said at a press conference in Minsk on December 17.

The first four Russian planes appeared in Baranavichy airfield in December, 2013. Russia decided earlier this year to send 24 Su-27SM3 fighter jets to its airbase in Belarus’s Baranavichy in order to ‘provide inviolability of the airspace of the Union State of Russia and Belarus’.

In addition, in 2016  Russia is due to establish an airbase in the Belarusian town of Babruysk and deploy 24 Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets there. Russian aircraft will be stationed at a military airfield, which is to be reconstructed.

These jets were to have been deployed in Hrodna or Brest region. But Poland and the USA signed an agreement on introducing precision-guided missiles with a range of up to 400 km into service with the Polish Air Force. Such missiles may destroy Russian troops in Lida or Baranavichi, but they will not be able to reach Babruysk.

Meanwhile, at the recent session of the Security Council Aliaksandr Lukashenka admitted that Russia’s recent actions ‘cannot but raise concern’ and stressed that Belarus should ‘develop and strengthen its defense capacities’.

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