Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to the media after he reviewed the joint Belarusian-Russian military exercise, codenamed Allied Resolve 2022, at the Osipovichi training ground, on Feb. 17, 2022. (Photo by BelTA)
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says his country may purchase advanced Russian-made S-400 air defense systems to boost the countryís defense capabilities amid growing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
Lukashenko made the announcement to the media on Thursday after he reviewed the joint Belarusian-Russian military exercise Allied Resolve 2022 at the Osipovichi training ground, the state-run Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) reported.
Though the S-300 missile systems are enough for the defense needs of Belarus, which also has a S-400 battery, the country may deploy more S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems near capital Minsk.
"If necessary, we will deploy a couple more. We donít need many. These systems cover the distance, I think, of 600 kilometers. Where will we deploy them? Target detection is 600 kilometers," BelTA quoted Lukashenko as saying.
"We are talking about the purchase of several such systems. We can deploy them somewhere to the east of Minsk or near Minsk to see what is happening in Kyiv, to the west of Warsaw and so on," he added.
The S-400 entered service with the Russian army in 2007 and is considered Russiaís most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system.
Capable of engaging targets at a distance of 400 kilometers at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers, the missile system can destroy aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles. It can also be used against land-based targets.
His comments come as Russia and the US-led NATO have been at odds over Ukraine. Western countries accuse Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine by massing 100,000 troops and armaments near the border with that country. Rejecting the allegation, Moscow says the troop build-up is defensive as NATO has increased its activity near Russian borders.
Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia and neighboring Belarus would end their joint military drills on February 20 as previously planned, addressing Western concerns that Russian troops might stay in Belarus for a longer time.
Belarus says will ask Russia to set up Iskander training center
Elsewhere in his remarks, Lukashenko said Minsk will ask Moscow to set up a training center for Russian nuclear-capable Iskander operational and tactical missile systems, noting that the two sides had reached agreements to set up several training centers in Belarus to hone modern weapons use skills.
"Our army is at the frontline. We must have the most advanced weapons. We will either buy them or Russia will provide us with them, because we have a joint army," he added.
According to Lukashenko, three training centers have already been established and there are also plans to set up a training center where Russian specialists will help Belarusian forces master Iskanders.
"These are very good weapons. Do we need to master them? Yes, we do. We will buy these weapons from the Russian Federation. I will ask for a fourth center to be set up for Belarusian servicemen to learn to use Iskanders," the Belarusian president added.
íNo need for Russian military bases in Belarusí
The Belarus president also said there is no need to set up Russian military bases in the country.
"The point here is not that we do not want it or are afraid of anything. We do not need them here from the military point of view," he said.
"The Russian Federation can send troops from its western regions within a day or two. Why do we need to spend billions of US dollars to set up additional bases here?"
Lukashenko also stressed that there was no need to set up air force bases either.
"Why do we need to move jets, helicopters and so on to the border of the Union State and put them into crosshairs?" he said, noting that the same is true about the missile forces.
"We do not need any bases here," Lukashenko added.