Belarus plans to deploy up to 200 troops to Syria to serve alongside Russian forces in the country, according to a Russian government document released Monday.
A draft agreement between Russia and its ally Belarus endorsed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says that the Belarusian troops will work to provide “humanitarian assistance” to the population outside combat zones.
Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since 2015, teaming up with Iran to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime reclaim control over most of the country after a devastating civil war.
The planned deployment of Belarusian troops’ to Syria reflects increasingly close defense ties between the two ex-Soviet neighbors and allies.
In recent weeks, Russia has moved troops from Siberia and the Far East to Belarus for sweeping joint drills. The deployment added to the Russian military buildup near Ukraine, fuelling Western fears of a possible invasion.
Belarus’ authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has increasingly relied on the Kremlin’s political and financial support amid bruising Western sanctions triggered by his crackdown on domestic protests, has called for closer defense ties with Moscow and recently offered to host Russian nuclear weapons.
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