Russia sends paratroopers to Belarus for drills near troubled Polish border

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

he Russian Defence Ministry said that as part of joint war games Russian troops will parachute from Il-76 transport planes in Belarus’s Grodno region, which 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”.

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Migrants at the Belarus-Poland border (Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA/AP)

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

Earlier this week, Moscow sent its nuclear-capable strategic bombers on patrol missions over Belarus for two 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.

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A long-range Russian bomber patrols in Belarus air space (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service/AP)

Russia has strongly supported Belarus amid a tense stand-off this week as thousands of migrants and refugees, most 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’s 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 his disputed 2020 re-election.

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

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Alexander Lukashenko (Nikolay Petrov/BelTA/AP)

The Belarusian Defence Ministry accused Poland on Thursday of an “unprecedented” military build-up on the border, saying migration control did not warrant the concentration of 15,000 troops backed by tanks, air defence assets and other weapons.

Russia and Belarus have a union agreement envisaging close political and military ties.

Mr Lukashenko has stressed the need to boost military co-operation in the face of what he has described as aggressive actions by Nato allies.

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