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Belarus to receive large batch of weapons from Russia, says Lukashenko

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By Euronews with AP
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures while speaking during an annual press conference in Minsk.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures while speaking during an annual press conference in Minsk.   -   Copyright  Andrei Stasevich /BelTA photo via AP
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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that his country will soon receive a large consignment of weapons from Russia.

Belarus will acquire dozens of combat jets, helicopters and air defence missile systems, Lukashenko announced on Wednesday.

The news comes as Russia and Belarus prepare to conduct joint war games involving an estimated 200,000 troops.

Lukashenko also hinted that his country could receive S-400 anti-aircraft systems, which are capable of shooting down air targets at a distance of 250 kilometres.

The authoritarian leader has been a strong ally of Moscow and has sought support from Russia following his disputed re-election in 2020.

Lukashenko claimed a sixth term in office after the vote, which triggered months of protests and allegations of a rigged vote from the Belarusian opposition and western countries.

Russia has staunchly backed the longtime Belarusian president as his government faced a series of sanctions from the United States and the European Union, following a crackdown on protestors.

More than 35,000 people have been arrested in Belarus since the August 2020 vote, with thousands reporting instances of police brutality.

Lukashenko has accused western countries of trying to oust him and undermine Russia. He described this month's upcoming military exercises as part of joint efforts to counter foreign pressure.

"We effectively have a single army, with the Belarusian military forming its backbone in the western direction," Lukashenko said.

"[If] a war starts, the Belarusian army will be the first to engage in the fight, and the western group of Russia's armed forces will join quickly after to form a joint defence."

Previously, Lukashenko has accused Moscow of forging plots to force Belarus to abandon its independence but has changed his rhetoric in recent months.

The Belarusian opposition has voiced concerns that the president might sacrifice Belarus in exchange for the Kremlin's support.