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Russian anti-aircraft missile troops arrive to Belarus to set up training centre

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MOSCOW, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Russian anti-aircraft missile troops have arrived in Belarus with a mission of establishing a training centre in the city of Grodno near the border with Poland and Lithuania, the Belarus Defence Ministry said on Saturday.

The move is likely to add to tensions between Belarus and its neighbours, Poland and Lithuania, countries it accuses of meddling in its affairs by hosting exiled opposition leaders and refusing to recognise Alexander Lukashenko’s victory in last year’s election.

Lukashenko’s critics say the vote was rigged, which he denies.

Belarus’ Defence Ministry said on social media that the decision to set up joint military centres of Russian and Belarus troops was agreed at the talks in March in Moscow by the armies of the two ex-Soviet states.

The ministry said it also expects Russian Su-30SM fighter jets to arrive in Belarus on Sept. 3. The number of jets and the size of the troop deployment were not disclosed.

Russia has maintained close military and economic ties with Belarus while Western countries have ostracised the country since Lukashenko cracked down on mass protests that erupted after the disputed presidential election.

Lukashenko said last month that Belarus would not hesitate to invite Russian troops if needed, although he said there was no need for them. r

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin Editing by Ros Russell

Reuters