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Defense ministry unaware how many Russian soldiers are stationed in Belarus

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Photo: arhano.ru

Moscow may take use of the joint exercise West 2017 to deploy a new military contingent in Belarus as Russian leadership has not refused from plans to boost its military presence on the territory of its west-bound ally, Russian commentator Alexander Sytin told Euroradio.

“They can use the pretext of the growing NATO threat that Belarus will not be able to defend if NATO attacks, or that they need to defend the early warning radar or they may come up with something else. At least, they will try to do it in order to see how Belarus reacts to this," suggests Sytin.

Now there are two Russian bases in Belarus - the Volga-type early warning radar in Hancavicy run by the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces and the 43rd communication center of the Russian Navy near Vilejka that provides long-haul communication with Russian submarines and is also used for radioelectronic reconnaissance and warfare. These sites are important to Russia but on what grounds can additional Russian forces "join" those already stationed there? In fact, how many Russian troops are now stationed in Hancavicy and Vilejka? Euroradio asked this question to Belarusian defense ministry but the officers there seem to be unware.

“I don't have this information. This is not wihtin our competence, especially since these two sites are not technically military bases. I suggest you contact them [Russian defense ministry] directly and ask them," says the head of Belarusian defense ministry's press office Uladzimir Makarau.

In the view of Belarusian defense commentator Aliaksandr Alesin, the number of Russian troops at the bases in Belarus and all the conditions are stipulated by the bilateral agreements. However, the agreements are classified. Alesin says he was not allowed to familiarize himself with the provisions of the deal.

“These sites have serious infrastructure. I can only approximate the number of servicement there - at the level of 400 troops at each station. The increase in the number of  troops for these sites will be subject to a new agreement, because they are located on the territory of the other country," says Alesin.

Alexander Sytin doubts that Russian will stick to the previously signed agreements if it does not need to.

On the other hand, Alesin sees no sense in risking good relations with Belarus by deploying Russian troops in Belarus without permission from our country.

Alesin: “Even if they pull out 2000 and leave 2000 in Belarus after the drills, what can those 2000 troops really do? The success of 'green little men' in Crimea was driven by 20 000 troops of the Russian contingent stationed there, including marines and special forces. Besides, the local population had mostly pro-Russian sentiment. And most importantly, nobody in Kyiv gave an order to fight back."

The expert is confident that all the rumors about the Russian troops to remain in Belarus without permission is an element of 'hybrid warfare." However, it is hard to identify the source of those rumors. 

Фота Змітра Лукашука, delfi.lt