Russia and Belarus hold war games in Baltic Sea

Rear Admiral Alexander Lukshenko, Russia’s deputy chief of naval operations, says war games are aimed at protecting the country from Nato

Russia and Belarus have held military drills in the Baltic Sea aimed at intercepting enemy submarines and combating an attack from a foreign country, as the immigration crisis over the European Union’s border grows.

Alexander Lukshenko, Russia’s deputy chief of naval operations, said the joint exercises had been staged on its territory and were aimed at protecting Russia from Nato.

More than 7,500 personnel from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine conducted “Yamal 16” sea war games in the Baltic Sea last month, along with 62 vessels, 70 aircraft and 30 drones.

“Our goal is to identify … submarines and aircraft and prevent them from entering our waters and carrying out manoeuvres against us,” Lukshenko said on Russian television on Sunday.

Under Article 4 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty, member states are obliged to provide military assistance to any EU member that is the victim of an attack. Countries outside the bloc that are possible allies to the EU such as France and Britain have been considering sending troops in support of Romania and Bulgaria if a migrant boat came close to land in the Black Sea.

Russia and Belarus have joined forces in many military exercises over the years, and a pro-Russian alliance in eastern Ukraine calls itself the New Sea Fleet.

Relations between the two, which are also neighbours, became especially strained last month, when Russia deployed warplanes near Belarusian airspace, prompting Belarus to scramble fighter jets to intercept them.

“The main threat to all of us comes from Nato,” Lukshenko said.

Last month Russia and Belarus concluded long-term deals to buy imports of energy from Russia and natural gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the first signs that Moscow’s long-planned South Stream gas pipeline would be implemented.

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