Belarus, Russia kick off joint air force exercise: Defense Ministry
The Belarusian Defense Ministry confirms the start of a Russian-Belarusian joint air force exercise to increase the interoperability of the forces.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry announced on Monday the start of a Russian-Belarusian joint air force exercise, which would last until the first of February, mobilizing all Belarusian air bases.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said, "A joint tactical flight exercise of aviation units of the Belarusian and Russian armed forces, which are part of the aviation component of the regional group of troops, started."
The Ministry explained that the key objective of the exercise is to increase the interoperability of the forces in combat training tasks, noting that a unit of the Russian aerospace forces is taking part in the drills.
"A great number of tasks is scheduled to be practiced during the exercise. These include conducting aerial reconnaissance, joint patrolling of the airspace along the state border, providing air support for groups of troops, landing of tactical airborne troops, cargo delivery and evacuation of wounded," the statement read.
On Sunday, the first Deputy State Secretary of Belarus' Security Council Pavel Muraveiko explained that "the exercises are purely defensive in nature, and will focus on aerial reconnaissance, air strikes as well as air defense of critical facilities and communication lines," in response to suspicions about it being a potential threat for Ukraine.
The senior official insisted that such training is held on a regular basis, so this year's exercises have nothing going on behind the scenes.
"As for the exercise itself, it will be a set of activities to train our and Russian aviation in carrying out their respective combat tasks. The exercise will involve airfields and training grounds on the territory of the Republic of Belarus, where aviation units of both our and Russian units will operate shoulder to shoulder or wing to wing," he added.
However, Muraveiko stressed that Minsk is prepared for any provocations by Ukraine, pointing out that the border administrations of Belarus and Ukraine are holding some talks, which do not always result in positive results.
It is noteworthy that Belarus will host three out of four planned Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military drills in September.
Belarus, this year's CSTO chair, will also organize an international conference on Eurasian security, a fairly broad dialogue between defense ministers, foreign ministers, and security council secretaries.
Read more: Russian embassy in Minsk: Russians, Belarusians "most loyal allies"