Russia, Belarus launch ‘purely defensive’ joint air force drills

Sukhoi Su-30SM of Russian air force
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Russia and Belarus have commenced joint air force drills using Belarus’ military airfields.

The military exercises will be conducted until February 1, 2023, according to the Belarusian defense ministry.

“Today, a joint tactical flight exercise of the aviation units of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation, which are part of the aviation component of the regional grouping of troops (forces), has started,” the ministry revealed in a post on the Belarusian defence ministry’s Telegram page.

“The main goal of the exercise is to increase operational compatibility in the joint performance of combat training missions,” the post continues.

As part of the joint exercise, the military forces of both countries will practice jointly patrolling Belarusian airspace and will work on air support for a group of troops, air reconnaissance, tactical airborne landing and goods delivery exercises, as well as the evacuation of the wounded troops.

The current air drills are similar to the activity seen before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022, when Moscow used the country as a springboard to launch the attack.

According to Russian foreign ministry official Aleksey Polishchuk, the military activities have been launched to prevent conflict escalation. But if Ukraine decides to “invade” either Belarus or Russia, then Belarus may join the war, Polishchuk warned Russian media, as reported by Al Jazeera on January 13, 2023.

However, Belarus has recently denied Ukraine’s concerns that the air drills could be used to mount a new attack on the country.

“The exercise is purely defensive in nature,” the first deputy state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council Pavel Muraveyko wrote in a statement, Al Jazeera reported on January 16, 2023.

A similar narrative was used by both Russia and Belarus as a pretext for start the ongoing conflict in Ukraine in February 2022.

Just a few hours after Russian troops entered Ukraine, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko justified the invasion, stating that the actions were taken to precent Ukrainian military invading Belarus.

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