The exercise at the Gozhsky training ground involved airborne units landing and carrying out combat training, including capturing and holding a bridgehead and searching and destroying enemy targets, the defence ministry said. defence ministry confirmed that its paratroopers were taking part in the exercise. Both countries said troops would return to bases when the drills were over.
The drills involved Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport planes and helicopters of the Belarusian Air Force, Minsk said in a statement circulated on social media.
The European Union has accused Belarus of mounting a “hybrid attack” on the bloc by flying in thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, and pushing them to try to cross illegally into Poland. It is gearing up to impose new sanctions on Minsk.
Neighbours of Belarus have expressed concern that the crisis could escalate into a military confrontation.
Belarus is a close ally of Moscow. President Alexander Lukashenko said this week he could cut off Russian gas supplies to Europe through pipelines over Belarus.
But the Kremlin appeared to distance itself from that threat on Friday, saying Russia had not been consulted before Lukashenko’s remarks and would meet all gas delivery contracts.
NATO said on Friday it is looking out for any escalation in the situation on its members’ borders with Belarus.
The North Atlantic Council, representing the alliance’s member states, said in a statement: “We will remain vigilant against the risk of further escalation and provocation by Belarus at its borders with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, and will continue to monitor the implications for the security of the alliance.
“NATO allies call on Belarus to cease these actions, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to abide by international law.”
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said a “small team” of armed forces personnel have been deployed to Poland “to address the ongoing situation at the Belarus border”.
In a statement, the MoD said: “The UK and Poland have a long history of friendship and are Nato allies.
“A small team of UK armed forces personnel have deployed following an agreement with the Polish government to explore how we can provide engineering support to address the ongoing situation at the Belarus border.”
The PA news agency understands that the deployment is limited to providing engineering support.
The statement comes amid tensions over an influx of migrants at the border between Poland and Belarus.
European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas on Friday welcomed a move by Turkish aviation authorities to limit air traffic to Belarus for certain nationalities as part of efforts to contain the migrant crisis on the EU’s eastern borders.
Schinas, who is visiting Beirut as a second stop on a tour of countries he is lobbying to put a stop to the flow of migrants to Belarus, said flights out of Turkey to Belarus should go down to zero from 17 after the decision.
The EU earlier said that Turkish Airlines, one of the main international carriers flying to Minsk, had agreed to suspend one-way ticket sales for Middle Eastern migrants seeking to reach Europe via Belarus.