A pair of nuclear-powered Russian
long-range bombers flew over the skies of Belarus on Saturday in a move to
showcase the two countries’ warm ties amid growing tension between Russia and
the western powers.

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The Russian Defense Ministry said two
Tu-22M3 flew a four-hour mission to practice “performing joint tasks with the
Belarusian air force and air defense.” The bombers were escorted by Belarus’
Su-30 fighter jets, which Russia has supplied to its ally. This was the third
such patrolling mission by Russian bombers since November. 

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The Russian patrolling of Belarusian skies
came amid the US-led western powers’ concern over Russia’s troop deployment on
the Ukraine borders. The US intelligence department said Russia may attack Ukraine
in early January.

Russia, on the other hand, urged the
western powers to ensure that NATO would not expand its base in Ukraine. Moscow
has also denied plans for an attack on Ukraine.

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But, Ukrainian officials have voiced concern
that Russia may use the territory of its ally Belarus for attacking Ukraine.
Moscow has strongly supported Belarus amid a tense standoff last month when
thousands of migrants and refugees, most of them from the Middle East, gathered
on the Belarusian side of the border with Poland in the hope of crossing into
Western Europe.

The European Union has accused
authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging illegal
border crossings as a “hybrid attack” to retaliate against EU sanctions on his
government for its crackdown on internal dissent after Lukashenko’s disputed
2020 reelection.

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Amid tensions with the West, Lukashenko
said last month that his country would be ready to host Russian nuclear

The Belarusian leader wouldn’t elaborate on
what kind of weapons Belarus would be willing to accommodate but noted that the
ex-Soviet nation has carefully preserved the necessary military infrastructure
dating back to the time of the USSR.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has
described Lukashenko’s offer as a “serious warning prompted by reckless Western