Russia and Belarus will hold joint military exercises just one year after the massive maneuvers in 2022 mutated overnight from mere training to an offensive on kyiv.
As Ukraine reinforces the border and Moscow deploys planes at Belarusian airfields, President Aleksandr Lukashenko has advocated accelerating the merger with Russia under the umbrella of the State of the Union, the supranational entity that unites them, and has promised that both governments will have a common propaganda channel in the coming months.
"We support and will continue to support our brothers," the president warned in response to criticism of his support for the Russian armed forces.
“Our destiny is to march together (both countries) and for something to serve as a car seat belt.
Therefore, this media holding should start working this year, preferably in its first half," Lukashenko said on Tuesday during a meeting with the Secretary General of the State of the Union, Dmitri Mezentsev.
Minsk would reinforce with this propaganda channel the control of the information that comes from outside the country, where many independent journalists who have fled the repression have taken refuge.
This decision would mean another step in the Belarusian concessions to the Kremlin.
The media collaboration between the two governments has a precedent in the 2020 opposition protests, when Belarusian public media workers went on strike and were replaced by Russia Today (RT) employees sent by Moscow.
“You know how important you have been to us during these difficult times and what you, the technicians, the journalists, the correspondents... and your management demonstrated.
This is worth a lot, I thank you for this support," Lukashenko told RT in September of that year.
Protests sparked by electoral fraud in 2020 pushed Lukashenko to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin for help.
In addition to journalists, the Kremlin chief also sent reinforcements for the security forces and billions in aid to the regime.
In return, Moscow intensified the meetings with a reluctant Lukashenko to delve into the mechanisms in progress of the State of the Union, a supranational structure agreed in 1999 to strengthen the unification of the two countries.
The Belarusian president advocated during his meeting with Mezentsev to increase spending on the 28 programs agreed with Putin in the past on the State of the Union.
However, his most outstanding collaboration so far is the military one.
Lukashenko announced on Monday that the Russian and Belarusian air forces will train together between January 16 and February 1 at all the country's airbases.
Several Russian aircraft have already landed on its territory, thus joining the reinforcements that have arrived in recent months to form a joint regional force.
The president reviewed these troops at the Obuz-Lesnovky military site just before Orthodox Christmas, and announced the supply of large quantities of medical supplies for the Russian forces.
"In a few months we have made a better medical kit than NATO, it can save lives," he said during that visit.
This Monday he reiterated that his country's support for the Kremlin army is unconditional.
"You are doing the right thing," said the president to the convent of Santa Isabel for having raised money for the Russian military: "Don't pay attention to a handful of bought people.
We help our Russian brothers, we have never tried to hide it."
A year earlier, between the end of December and February 20, the massive military maneuvers known as Allied Determination-2022 were held in Belarus.
Both Minsk and Moscow promised that the troops would return to their bases once they were finished amid growing mistrust from Ukraine and the West.
"It is beyond any doubt," Putin's spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said at the time about his alleged withdrawal.
"Not a single soldier or piece of equipment will remain in Belarus after the exercises," said the recently deceased Belarusian Foreign Minister, Vladimir Makei.
Finally, four days after the end of those exercises, Russia launched against kyiv from Belarusian territory.
Lukashenko claimed in December that concerns about Belarus' final entry into the war are "a conspiracy theory", while at the same time asserting that his country has become the target of its neighbors and must arm itself.
Ukraine, for its part, learned its lesson in February of last year and has been preparing for that possibility for months.
"There are no border guards on the other side, but soldiers in different uniforms," the Belarusian State Border Committee lamented through official accounts.
The body has published a video in which it blames kyiv for deploying "mines, anti-tank ditches and other blockades" in Ukrainian territory before a possible invasion.
It's not the first time he's complained.
The head of this committee, General Anatoli Lappo, denounced in October that the path through Ukraine is not clear: "Almost all the bridges have been blown up, and the railways and highways have been completely mined" with " up to three rows of explosives.”
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