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Lukashenko plans $1bn arms deal with Russia

September 12, 2021

Belarusian state news showed President Alexander Lukashenko in fatigues inspecting joint military exercises with Russia. The arms deal with Moscow could include the state-of-the-art S-400 missile system.

Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, dressed in fatigues, and senior Russian and Belarusian officers attend the Zapad-2021 military exercises
Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko used the Zapad military exercises with Russia as a backdrop to announce a $1 billion purchase of Russian armsImage: BelTA/AP Photo/picture alliance

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, clad in military fatigues, visited the Zapad military exercises underway with Russia Sunday and announced his country's plans to acquire $1 billion (€850 million) worth of weapons from Russia by 2025.

During a visit to a military site not far from the town of Baranovichi in western Belarus, Lukashenko praised the readiness of Russian and Belarusian troops and said together the two nations were prepared to counter "hybrid aggression" from the West.

The live fire drill is the culmination of a week's worth of maneuvers that are set to conclude later in the week. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to pay a visit to the troops Monday.

Massive military exercise on NATO's eastern border

Zapad involves 200,000 military personnel and has unsettled neighboring Ukraine and Poland. For the first time since the fall of communism in 1989, Poland has declared a state of emergency on its eastern border in part due to the exercises.

On the eve of the drills, Putin said Zapad was defensive, not offensive, and on Sunday, Lukashenko struck a similar tone.

"We are not aiming our rockets at neighboring countries; we are getting ready to defend our land," Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the Telegram channel of the Belarusian presidency.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, however, warned of "provocations."

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at the Kremlin last Thursday
Putin will come to Minsk in November to sign a host of agreements further integrating Russia and BelarusImage: Mikhail Voskresensky/Sputnik/REUTERS

Belarus and Russia deepen integration

On Thursday of last week, Putin and Lukashenko met in the Kremlin for seven hours to discuss greater integration between the two countries. Lukashenko later said half of the time was spent on defense talks, with Belarus eyeing the acquisition of the S-400 air defense system.

On November 4, Putin is expected in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, to sign a host of agreements on deepening ties between the two countries.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said troops involved in Zapad will all have returned to their bases by mid-October.

Authoritarian brain drain

ar/mm (AFP, Reuters)

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