Russia sends military hardware to Belarus

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Russia will soon deliver a huge military hardware consignment to Belarus, including aircraft, helicopters and air defence systems, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has been quoted as saying by the Belta news agency.

The delivery is likely to be interpreted as a further sign of Moscow's unwavering support for Lukashenko who faced down the biggest opposition protests of his rule last year by overseeing a violent crackdown condemned by the West.

Russian and Belarusian forces are set to hold large joint military exercises later this month. Russia sees its Belarusian ally as a security buffer on its western flank against the NATO military alliance and the European Union.

"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 defence weapons," Lukashenko was quoted as saying.

"Maybe even S-400s (surface-to-air missiles). We need them very much as I've said in the past," he said.

Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin are due to hold talks in Russia on September 9.

Russia and Belarus are formally part of a "union state" and have been in talks for years to further integrate their nations.

The negotiations have long spurred fears among the beleaguered Belarusian opposition that Lukashenko might trade off chunks of sovereignty in return for even more political backing from the Kremlin.

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