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Belarus, Russia to start joint air force drills

The two allies will conduct air force drills from January 16 to February 1

UKRAINE-CRISIS/DONETSK-SHELLING Emergency and investigation personnel work among debris at the site where a building was heavily damaged in recent shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, January 16, 2023 | Reuters

Russia and Belarus, on Monday, began joint military exercises. This has triggered fears in Kyiv and the West that Moscow could use its neighbour to launch a new ground offensive in Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year using Belarus as its base. 

The two allies will conduct air force drills from January 16 to February 1 using all Belarus military airfields and began joint army exercises involving a "mechanised brigade subdivision" on Monday, the Belarusian defence ministry told Reuters. Minsk has said the air drills will not enter the war. "We're maintaining restraint and patience, keeping our gunpowder dry," Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of Belarusian Security Council told Reuters. 

According to Muraveyko, the exercises will involve training for “aerial reconnaissance, deflecting air strikes, air cover of important objects and communications. He added that Ukraine has been 'provoking' Belarus and that the situation on the country's southern border wasn't very calm. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that the country might face an attack from Belarus and must be ready at its border with the country. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Minsk has conducted numerous military exercises on its own or with Russia. Moscow in the meantime has denied that it has been putting pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to play a more active role in the ongoing war. 

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