Russia on Saturday sent a pair of nuclear-capable long-range bombers to patrol the skies of its ally Belarus in the midst of the spiral of tensions over Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the two bombers Tu-22M3 they practiced interaction with the air force and air defense of Belarus during a four-hour mission. The flight followed several similar patrols over Belaruswhich borders on Ukraine to the north.
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The mission came after the Kremlin moved troops from Siberia and the Far East to Belarus to perform extensive joint exercises. The use added to the Russian military buildup on the borders with Ukrainefueling Western fears of possible invasion.
Russia has denied that it has planes to attack Ukraine, but urged the United States and its allies to make binding commitments that they will not accept Ukraine on the NATO, will not deploy offensive weapons and will reverse NATO uses in Eastern Europe. Washington and NATO have rejected the demands.
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The West has called on Russia to withdraw approximately 100,000 troops from areas near Ukrainebut the Kremlin has responded by indicating that it will place troops where they are needed on Russian territory. As tensions over Ukraine escalated, the Russian army began a series of war games that stretched from the Arctic to the Black Sea.
The use of Russian troops in Belarus probably worries in the West that Moscow could be staging an attack on Ukraine from the north. The Ukrainian capital of Kiev is just 75 kilometers (50 miles) from the border with Belarus.
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In recent months, Russia conducted a series of joint exercises with Belarus and repeatedly sent its nuclear-capable long-range bombers to patrol the skies over Belarus.which borders the members of the NATO Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is increasingly relying on political and financial support from the Kremlin in the wake of sanctions imposed by the West for his operations against protests on his own western soil, has set about having closer defense ties with Moscow and Russia recently exhibited nuclear weapons.
In an interview with Russian official television broadcast on Saturday, Lukashenko stressed that the Russia-led security alliance had shown its ability to quickly use when its members sent unexpected forces last month to Kazakhstan to help stabilize the situation after unrest that They had fatal results.
“While they (NATO) will continue to prepare to send some soldiers here, we are already deployed in the English Channel, and they know it,” he argued in reference to the allies of the West.
The Belarusian president downplayed the threat of war, but added that if the conflict breaks out “it will last three or four days at most.”
“There is no one there to fight us,” he said of Ukraine.
On Saturday, the German newspaper Bild published a report that Russia is preparing to attack Ukraine from various points, seize major cities and install a puppet government. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied the suspicions.
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