President Putin supported a plan to set up joint military training centers with Belarus, raising concerns that Minsk was involved in the Ukraine conflict.
In a decree published today, Russian President Vladimir Putin tasked the Russian Defense Minister and Foreign Minister to discuss with Belarus to sign an agreement to establish a joint military training center between the two countries.
However, the ordinance did not specify where the training centers would be located.
Belarus is a close ally of Russia. Minsk has allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to launch attacks on Ukraine since late February last year.
However, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly affirmed that he will not send troops into Ukraine, despite moves to increase military cooperation with Russia.
Despite declaring that he would not join the war, President Lukashenko in October announced the creation of a joint military force with Russia to deal with “increasing tensions on the western border”. 70,000 Belarusian servicemen and 15,000 Russian troops in this force have conducted many joint exercises near the border with Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Moscow and Minsk conducted joint air exercises in Belarus, which are scheduled to last until February 1. Belarus said that the exercise will use every airport and training ground in the country, in order to enhance the ability to coordinate in synergistic warfare between the two countries.
Thanh Tam (Theo AFP)