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Russia to open air base in Belarus by 2015

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Russia on Tuesday announced an agreement to open an air base in Belarus by 2015, part of the two post-Soviet neighbours' plan to forge a political and military alliance on the doorstep of the European Union.

"We are beginning to work on a plan to create here a Russian air base with fighter jets," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying at a meeting with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"We plan to continue to address the issues necessary for strengthening the defensive capabilities of our Belarussian colleagues and brothers," Shoigu was quoted as saying by Lukashenko's office.

The base is due to open in 2015, while the first fighter jets will appear in Belarus already this year, Shoigu was quoted as saying.

He added that under an earlier agreement, Russia next year will send to Belarus four batteries of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems.

Together with the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus have agreed to create a Eurasian economic union, an EU-style project championed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to bring together ex-Soviet states.

Moscow and Minsk will hold joint military exercises in Belarus in September.

Belarus, which has borders with EU states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, has grown increasingly isolated from the West under Lukashenko's rule and repeatedly squabbles with the European Union over its rights record.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130423/russia-open-air-base-belarus-2015