Vladimir Putin backs Belarus airbase as Moscow reinforces geopolitical role

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed the establishment of an airbase in neighbouring Belarus, the latest move by Moscow to project its military power abroad.

The announcement, which comes at a time of tension with the West over Russian involvement in Ukraine and Syria, may also signal the Kremlin’s interest in keeping unpredictable Belarus within its geopolitical orbit.

The plan is not expected to face major obstacles.

The idea of setting up an airbase in the former Soviet republic was revealed by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in 2013. It followed a 2009 agreement under which Russia and Belarus agreed to defend their common external frontier and airspace.

Russian officials had said the base would be used to station Su-27 fighters.

Russia already has fighter aircraft in Belarus.

However, this would be the first full-scale base in the country since Soviet times.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, is a long-standing Russian ally and is often criticised in the West for his record on human rights.

Full article: Vladimir Putin backs Belarus airbase as Moscow reinforces geopolitical role (The Age)

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