Russia's new Belarus base to get fighter jets, anti-aircraft missiles


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Viktor Drachev

Russia will deploy fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles to a new base in Belarus set to start operation in 2015, according to Russia Today

Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu made the announcement after holding talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, a Russia ally.

Four years ago, the two nations agreed to establish a joint air defense system, said Reuters. This was seen as a response to vaunted US plans for a European-based missile defense system in the neighborhood -- a proposal that displeased territorial Moscow.

But it seems Russia is finally moving on the military front in Belarus -- Reuters cited Shoigu as saying the first jets are set to arrive there this year.

"We hope that in 2015 there will be a regiment of warplanes [in Belarus] which will serve to defend our borders," Shoigu said in comments aired on Russian state television, according to Reuters.

Four Russian battalions of S-300 surface-to-air missiles will be sent to Belarus, he also told reporters, according to Russia Today

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been working to improve relations between Moscow and its former Soviet satellites. Russia drew up a similar missile agreement with Kazakhstan, reported Russia Today

But Ruslan Pukhov of the Moscow defense think-tank CAST told Malaysia's The Star the Russian move will likely be seen "as a display of hostility" by its neighbors and the West. 

Russia and Belarus, a small nation bordering Poland and Latvia, are set to hold joint military drills this fall, said Agence-France Press

Belarus has been frequently censured by the European Union and other rights organizations over its shoddy rights record under Lukashenko's authoritarian rule.