Russia sends paratroopers to Belarus for drills near Poland

AP , Friday 12 Nov 2021

Russia sent paratroopers to Belarus Friday in a show of support for its ally amid the tensions over an influx of migrants on the Belarusian border with Poland.

Russian paratroopers
Russian paratroopers. Photo courtesy of Defense Ministry Official Website

The Russian Defense Ministry said that as part of joint war games Russian paratroopers will parachute from heavy-lift Il-76 transport planes in Belarus' Grodno region that borders Poland.

The Belarusian military said the exercise involving a battalion of Russian paratroopers was intended to test the readiness of the allies' rapid response forces due to an ``increase of military activities near the Belarusian border.``

It said that as part of the drills, which will also involve Belarusian air defense assets, helicopter gunships, and other forces, troops will practice targeting enemy scouts and illegal armed formations, along with other tasks.

Earlier this week, Russia sent its nuclear-capable strategic bombers on patrol missions over Belarus for two straight days. Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, told reporters at UN headquarters in New York that the flights came in response to a massive build-up on the Polish-Belarusian border.

Russia has strongly supported Belarus amid a tense standoff this week as thousands of migrants and refugees, most of them from the Middle East, gathered on the Belarusian side of the border with Poland in the hope of crossing into Western Europe.

The European Union has accused Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of encouraging illegal border crossings as a ``hybrid attack'' to retaliate against EU sanctions on his government for its crackdown on domestic protests after Lukashenko's disputed 2020 reelection.

Belarus denies the allegations but has said it will no longer stop refugees and migrants from trying to enter the EU.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry accused Poland on Thursday of an ``unprecedented'' military buildup on the border, saying that migration control did not warrant the concentration of 15,000 troops backed by tanks, air defense assets, and other weapons.

Russia and Belarus have a union agreement envisaging close political and military ties. Lukashenko has stressed the need to boost military cooperation in the face of what he has described as aggressive actions by NATO allies.

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