Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says Russia will soon deliver a huge consignment of military hardware to the country, including aircraft, helicopters and air defense systems.
“Russia in the near future... will supply us – I won’t say how much money or what – with dozens of planes, dozens of helicopters, the most important air defense weapons,” Lukashenko was quoted by the Belta news agency as saying on Wednesday.
“Maybe even S-400s (surface-to-air missiles). We need them very much as I've said in the past.”
“In a word, the most modern equipment. We will equip ourselves. If we see during the exercise (Zapad-2021) that we need something else, then we will buy it from the Russian Federation and commission it.”
Belarus and Russia are set to hold major joint military exercises later this month. The Zapad-2021 drills will last from September 10 until 16.
Lukashenko and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are also due to hold talks in Russia on the eve of the drills on September 9.
During a meeting with the public and journalists on August 9, Lukashenko expressed interest in the S-400 system, saying Minsk had contacted President Putin about a shipment “for a special price, on credit.”
The delivery is likely to be interpreted as a further sign of Moscow's unwavering support for Minsk. Russia sees Belarus as a security buffer on its western flank against NATO and the European Union (EU).
The EU has been at odds with Belarus since the presidential election of August 2020, which Lukashenko won. His main political opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, rejected the official results and claimed there had been voter fraud. Western governments came out in her support, repeating the allegation of vote-rigging.
The EU announced on September 15 that it did not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus.
Lukashenko rejects the allegation, blaming Western countries for orchestrating demonstrations that followed the election and conspiring to oust him.
Lukashenko has so far shrugged off the Western sanctions and pressure thanks to support from Russia, the key ally.
Minsk has warned it would be forced to reciprocate, which could in turn adversely affect the citizens and businesses of Western countries.