Belarus and China join forces in military exercise near Polish border

Belarus and China join forces in military exercise near Polish border
Belarus and China join forces in military exercise near Polish border

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Belarus is hosting Chinese troops in a joint military exercise near its border with NATO member Poland, officials said Tuesday, the first such move reflecting growing defense ties between the two countries.

The 11-day exercise, dubbed Eagle Assault 2024, began Monday at a firing range in the Brest region near Poland. It comes ahead of a NATO summit in Washington that began Tuesday and after Belarus joined a regional security organization led by China and Russia last week.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country of 9.5 million people with an iron fist for three decades, has relied on close ties with his main patron and ally, Russia, and has also sought to forge ever closer relations with China.

Lukashenko has become a pariah in the West after unleashing a brutal crackdown on the opposition in response to mass protests in 2020 sparked by his disputed re-election, which the opposition and Western countries criticised as rigged. The West has responded by imposing sweeping sanctions on Belarus.

It also allowed Russia to use its country as a base for its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In 2023, Russia also moved some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Lukashenko and his officials have repeatedly accused NATO of hostile intentions. “Our country is taking all necessary measures to prevent escalation, but we will respond harshly to any attempt to violate our border.”

 
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