Russia will move Sukhoi Su-30 fighters from Belarus to the patrol border, Minsk says


Moscow-Russia sent a Sukhoi Su-30 fighter to western Belarus to form a joint military training center, carry out joint missions and patrol the border between the two countries, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

The announcement, made two days before the start of military exercises in Belarus and Russia, caused astonishment in NATO’s military alliance and European Union countries.

Belarus has been in conflict with Western nations since President Alexander Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on mass street protests last year. Tensions have led Belarus to rely on its traditional ally, Russia, for financial and diplomatic support.

Lukashenko will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday. Earlier this month, Lukashenko said Russia would soon deliver to Belarus a consignment of huge military hardware, including aircraft, helicopters and air defense systems.

The ministry said in a statement that Russian jets “arrive at Baranovichi Airfield to form a joint training center for Belarus and Russian Air Force and Air Defense Forces.” The statement did not mention the number of jets that landed in Baranovic.

Jets will “perform joint combat missions to protect the Allied borders.”

NATO Executive Director Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia last week to be transparent in conducting the “The Pad-2021” (“West-2021”) exercise. Poland said on Monday that training would fuel already high tensions over the influx of cross-border migrants from Belarus to the EU.

Russia sees Belarus as a buffer for Western security against NATO and the EU.

Russia and Belarus are officially part of a “coalition” and have been negotiating for years to further integrate the two countries.

Negotiations have long caused fear among distressed Belarusian opponents that Lukashenko may trade off a mass of sovereignty in exchange for more political support from the Kremlin.

Vladimir Soldatkin and Alexander Mallow