MINSK, June 17. /TASS/. The issue of stationing a Russian aviation base in Belarus is being considered in the political dimension, Belarusian Defense Minister Gen. Lt. Andrey Ravkov told TASS in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
"The timeframe and place of stationing a Russian aviation base on the territory of Belarus is currently in the political dimension of consideration," Ravkov said. "It is too early to talk about transfer of Su-27 aircraft and Mi-8 helicopters from the Russian Federation," he continued. "However, our defense ministry is ready to undertake all necessary measures to practically fulfill this," he added.
Ravkov reminded that this year, Belarusian Air Force and Air Defense Forces received four Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft from Russia under the contract. "The issue of signing new contracts on delivering another batch of Yak-130 aircraft will be considered after we assess the operation of four received aircraft," the defense minister said.
In October 2014, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev announced that Russia will station an air base in Belarus’ Babruysk in 2016. "The Russian Air Forces air base in Belarus will be created in 2016. Su-27 fighter jets will be based there," Bondarev said.
Belarus is concerned with NATO’s deployment of additional military contingents near its borders, including those equipped with heavy weaponry, Ravkov said.
"Along with strengthening the aviation component of NATO member-countries in the Baltics States and Poland that perform the functions of hoarding the airspace, the Alliance is gradually concentrating additional military contingents equipped with heavy weaponry near the Belarusian borders," Ravkov said.
The defense minister noted that "the end of 2014 was marked by increasing military activity of neighboring countries, intensifying activities of operational and combat training." "Regardless of geopolitical prerequisites for such decisions made by our foreign partners, Belarus cannot ignore changes in the military-political situation in the region, that bear additional risks, challenges and threats to the country’s military security," Ravkov added.
He stressed that the Belarusian leadership took into consideration those aspects when developing the Plan of Preparation for the Armed Forces in 2014-2015, and it is "practically reflected in carrying out activities of operational and combat training planned for this year."
Belarus proceeds from the disposition that "no country is currently seen as a potential enemy," Ravkov said. However, "every country has the right to protect its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity," he noted. "Trained armed forces are needed for that, and we treat with understanding the training activities of the armed forces of other countries," the defense minister continued. "We also want our neighbors to demonstrate similar understanding," he concluded.