MOSCOW, Sept 12 — Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko today praised Russian and Belarusian troops for their readiness to jointly defend the two countries as he oversaw massive military drills that spooked some EU countries.
On Friday, Russia and Belarus launched military drills involving about 200,000 personnel, one of Moscow’s biggest exercises in recent years.
President Vladimir Putin is expected to inspect the drills on Monday, ahead of three-day parliamentary elections this week, a defence official told AFP.
Speaking at test range near the city of Baranovichi in western Belarus, Lukashenko said the two countries were ready to counter what he called “hybrid aggression” from the West.
“Your actions during the exercises vividly confirmed a high state of readiness of the armies of our countries and the Belarusian people to jointly secure their sovereignty and independence,” said Lukashenko, who was clad in military uniform.
He said that troops from Kazakhstan also took part in the drills.
Poland has introduced a state of emergency along its eastern border, the first time the measure has been used since the fall of Communism.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has warned of possible “provocations” and said the exercises were one reason Warsaw introduced the state of emergency.
On the eve of the exercise, Putin said the Russian-Belarusian drills were “not directed against anyone” and Lukashenko struck the same note on Sunday.
“We are not aiming our rockets at neighbouring countries, we are getting ready to defend our land,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the semi-official Telegram channel of the Belarusian presidency.
“The Belarusian-Russian union does not need extra lands!”
Putin and Lukashenko—both in power for more than two decades—held talks in the Kremlin on Thursday and agreed to deepen the political, economic and military integration of their ex-Soviet countries.
Putin is expected in the Belarusian capital Minsk to sign a raft of integration agreements on November 4.
The Belarus strongman said today that half of the seven-hour talks at the Kremlin were dedicated to defence and security including possible supplies of Russia’s S-400 air defence systems.
State news agency Belta said, quoting Lukashenko, that Belarus planned to buy more than US$1 billion (RM4.14 billion) worth of Russian-made weapons by 2025.
No other details were immediately provided. — AFP