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12 Jan, 2023 16:03

Russia sends high-ranking military representative to closest ally

Moscow’s deputy head of its Ukraine mission has arrived in Belarus on a “working trip”
Russia sends high-ranking military representative to closest ally

The Russian Ground Forces commander-in-chief, General Oleg Salyukov, arrived in Belarus on Thursday with a group of Defense Ministry officials on a “working trip,” the ministry said in a Telegram post.

Saluykov visited a military range where Russian troops are stationed, and received updates from unit commanders on operational coordination and joint combat training. The general also inspected the facilities and living conditions of the Russian troops, and spoke with the soldiers, according to the Defense Ministry.

Russian troops are undergoing an “intensive combat training course” on the Belarusian training ranges, the ministry said, adding that exercises are run both during the day and night. The course involves firing and tactical driving exercises, as well as psychological training and tactical medicine.

Earlier, the Belarusian Defense Ministry also confirmed the Russian military committee led by Salyukov had arrived in Belarus, adding that the general inspected Russian troops stationed in Belarus as part of the joint force and “assessed their readiness to fulfill the tasks… aimed at ensuring security of the Union State [of Russia and Belarus].”

The joint force was first formed in early October 2022, with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko citing NATO’s increased military activity at the border. Minsk also accused Kiev of attempted provocations and plans to launch a strike against Belarus, which Ukraine vehemently denied.

The joint force reportedly comprises around 9,000 Russian troops, with 70,000 Belarusian service members making up its bulk.

In December, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said the purpose of the joint force is solely defensive in nature, dismissing rumors about its potential involvement in Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

The inspection took place just a day after Salyukov was made deputy to the new commander of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. The head of the Russian General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, was appointed to lead the effort.