Russia moves Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to Belarus to patrol borders, Minsk says

A Sukhoi Su-30 fighter is seen on the asphalt at the MAKS 2017 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

MOSCOW, Sept. 8 (Reuters) – Russia has sent Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to western Belarus to conduct a joint military training center, flight joint missions and patrol met the two countries’borders, said the Belarusian Defense Ministry’ on Wednesday.

The announcement comes two days before the start of military to drill in Belarus and Russia die have caused consternation in NATO military alliance and the European Union countries.

Belarus is at odds with the West since President Alexander Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on mass street protests last year. Tensions have led Belarus to fall back on traditional ally Russia for financial and diplomatic support.

Lukashenko has a meeting met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday. Earlier this month, Lukashenko said that Russia would soon to deliver an enormous military hardware shipment to Belarus, including airplanes, helicopters and air defense systems.

The Russian fighter jets “arrived at Baranovichi airport to form a joint training center” for the air force and air armed forces of Belarus and Russia,” the ministry said in a statement. The statement did not say: how many jets landed on Baranovichi.

The jets will “carry” out joint combat duty to protect the air limits of the state of the Union.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last week insisted Russia to be transparent in performing the “Zapad-2021” (“West-2021”) exercises. Poland said on Monday the exercises would stir up tensions die already run high over an influx of migrants die cross the border from Belarus to the EU.

Russia sees Belarus as a security buffer on its western flank against NATO and the EU.

Russia and Belarus are formally part of An “union state” and have been in talk for years to further integrate their nations.

The negotiations have long fueled fears among the beleaguered Belarusian opposition that Lukashenko might trade off chunks of sovereignty in yield for even more political support of the Kremlin.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Alexander Marrow; writing by Matthias Williams and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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