Russia to Propose Building Airbase in Belarus

Russia is to propose building an air base in neighbouring Belarus during next week's meeting between Moscow's ally states in the Eurasian Council. Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev informed his cabinet of the decision on Wednesday, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.

"Next week we have a meeting with the intergovernmental council in Belarus," Medvedev said. "We will discuss the proposal to sign an agreement on [building] a Russian airbase on the territory of Belarus, which will be addressed to the president. The end goal of this is strengthening the mutual defence of our allied border by air," Medvedev added.

The project of putting a Russian air force base in Belarus, which borders Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine was first discussed in October 2014, when Russian air force chief, Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev, told state news agency Itar-Tass that Russia planned to open such facilities by 2016. He also unveiled that the city of Bobruisk would be prospective site of the base.

Russian news site Gazeta reports that Medvedev's recent announcement indicates that the legal procedures behind the project have already begun.

In Belarus, reports about the prospective base have attracted criticism. Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva reported that groups opposed to president Alexander Lukashenko are "categorically against" the base.

Retired lieutenant for the Belarusian armed forces Mikalai Statkevich, who ran against Lukashenko in the 2010 presidential election told Radio Liberty that he considered the prospective base to be aimed at giving Russia a stronger foothold in the Ukraine conflict.

"I think it's very dangerous for Belarus, because again it turns us into a platform for attacks on other countries," he said. "In particular, if the air base really is in Bobruisk, it is clear that its purpose is Kiev, because there are literally 200km (120 miles) to the border, and from there to Kiev it is about 150km (93 miles)."