Belarus strengthens military ties with Russia

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 (Reuters) – Belarus’s defence ministry said that joint Russian-Belarusian air defence forces had been reinforced, with new missile units moved into position.

“Anti-aircraft missile units advanced to designated areas and took up combat duty,” the ministry said in a brief statement.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and allowed President Vladimir Putin to use its territory as one of the launchpads for his Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The two countries plan to hold joint aviation drills in the second half of January, beginning next Monday.

Ukraine has repeatedly warned that Putin may try to use Belarus to launch a new invasion of Ukraine from the north, a step that would open a major new front in the war.

Ukraine must “be ready” at its border with Russian ally Belarus even though it sees only “powerful statements” coming from its neighbour, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday.

Zelenskiy made his comments after visiting the Lviv region, where he discussed border protection and the security situation in northwestern Ukraine.

Kyiv has warned that Russia may try to use Belarus to launch a new ground invasion of Ukraine from the north. Zelenskiy made no reference to such warnings in comments on the Telegram messaging app after taking part in what he described as a coordination meeting on security matters in the Lviv region.

“We discussed state border protection, the operational situation on the border with the Republic of Belarus, and counter-subversive measures in these territories,” he said.

“We understand that apart from powerful statements, we do not see anything powerful there, but nevertheless we must be ready both at the border and in the regions.”

Zelenskiy’s office released footage of Zelenskiy at the coordination meeting, and said the president also took part in a ceremony honouring the memory of Ukrainian soldiers killed in battle following Russia’s invasion last February.

Zelenskiy did not refer on Telegram to fighting under way in eastern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian military has denied losing control of the town of Soledar in fierce combat.

Photo: Belarus MOD

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