Belarus asks Russia to deploy 'up to 15 jets': leader

12th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday he would ask Russia to station up to 15 jets in his country in response to NATO's moves over the Ukraine crisis.

"If NATO decided, together with the Americans, to ramp up their air force presence near our borders, what, should we just watch them?" the maverick leader said, speaking at a meeting of his security council.

"If they deployed half a dozen interceptor aircraft or some other planes in Lithuania and they are flying near our borders, we will behave appropriately."

NATO said on Monday it would deploy reconnaissance aircraft to overfly Poland and Romania as part of alliance efforts to monitor the crisis in Ukraine.

In response to President Vladimir Putin's move into Crimea, home to a large Russian-speaking population and the Black Sea fleet, the US is also sending a dozen F-16 fighter jets and 300 service personnel to Poland for what it says is an exercise.

"We've reacted in a calm manner until large-scale games started in the south, in Poland, and Poland asked for these games to be expanded. This begs the question: why?" said Lukashenko.

"Why now when everything is not so calm in this region?"

Citing his own information, he added that more planes were redeployed from Italy "last night, late at night or early this morning."

"We have to react to this," he said, tasking his aides with contacting the Russian General Staff to ask Moscow to deploy jets in Belarus.

"Let's say no more than 12-15 planes right now," he said. "Let them work, patrol."

Russia currently has four jets stationed in the ex-Soviet country. Moscow plans to set up an air base in Belarus by next year.

© 2014 AFP

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