Russia has deployed nine aircraft, including fighter jets and military transport planes, to Belarus to participate in a joint training exercise.
An unnamed Russian Defence Ministry spokesman was quoted by ITAR-TASS News Agency as saying that the six Su-27 fighters and three tactical transport aircraft, along with aviation and technical personnel of the Russian Western Military District have been transferred to Bobruisk aerodrome in the Mogilyov region of Belarus.
"The crews of the Russian jets will start joint military duties with Belarussian colleagues to carry out aerial reconnaissance and ensure the protection and defence of the air space (of Russia and Belarus)," the spokesman said.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry said the Russian personnel and aircraft will participate in the second phase of an exercise that aims to test the combined regional air defence system, an air shield for the "Eastern European Collective Security Region," in line with the Union State agreements.
The deployment follows the start of joint Nato-US air defence drills at Lask Air Force Base in central Poland, close to the borders with Belarus, amid the Ukrainian crisis.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry said, "In the event of further accumulation of troop formations in the states adjoining Belarus it will take adequate measures of response on its territory."
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was earlier quoted by RIA Novosti as saying that the country might ask Russia for deployment of additional combat aircraft on its territory in response to increased Nato military activity along its borders.
"It could be some 12-15 planes for now… They could be put on patrols," Lukashenko said.
The new aircraft will boost the four Russian Su-27 Flanker fighters already deployed at the Baranovichi airbase in western Belarus.
Image: A Russian Air Force’s Su-27 Flanker aircarft in flight. Photo: courtesy of Dmitriy Pichugin.