MOSCOW, December 9 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian fighter jet unit has arrived at a Belarusian airbase where it will be stationed on alert duty as part of an integrated regional air defense network, Belarusian news agency BelaPAN reported.
Four Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighter jets and technical personnel have been based at the Baranovichi airbase, BelaPAN said on Sunday.
The Russian Defense Ministry recently announced plans to deploy a fighter jet regiment in Belarus by 2015. The majority of the planes will be stationed at a future Russian airbase in Lida, a town in northwestern Belarus, near the Polish and Lithuanian borders.
The airbase will be Russia’s first on Belarusian territory in modern times and will consolidate defense cooperation under the auspices of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, defense officials in Moscow have said.
European defense officials have bristled at evidence of Russia’s increased military deployments close to NATO’s border, claiming it fuels tension with former Communist bloc countries in Central Europe and the Baltic States.
But Moscow has repeatedly said Russian-Belarus defense ties are a legitimate effort to ensure a solid defense for the countries’ Union State.
Russia and Belarus signed an agreement on the joint protection of the Union State's airspace and the creation of an integrated regional air defense network in February 2009.
The network reportedly comprises five air force units, 10 air defense units, five technical service and support units, and one electronic warfare unit.
It is part of the integrated air defense network of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance comprising nine post-Soviet nations.