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Belarus on Tuesday announced it would be holding joint air defense exercises with Russia this week as the war in Ukraine turns to the sky.
The Ministry of Defense in Belarus said in a Telegram post that its air defense forces would engage in a joint staff training with “officials of the Air Force and Air Defense of the Western Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” from April 26th – 29th.
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The training will reportedly cover areas of cooperation in defense strategy, capability and planning.
Russia has relied heavily on missile strikes in its more than two-month-long war in Ukraine, with defense officials assessing over 1,670 strikes since the war began on Feb. 24.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked NATO to enforce a no-fly zone or send warplanes to counter the barrage of Russian missiles.
But defense officials previously argued the majority of Russia’s missiles were launched from surface-to-air platforms – rendering a no-fly zone ineffective.
Russia does appear to be changing tact one senior defense official told reporters last week, noting there have been more air-to-surface strikes as it ramps up its campaign in eastern and southern Ukraine.
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“In general, we continue to see a sense of weariness out of Russian pilots,” the official said noting they often fire without crossing any borders and do not stay in Ukrainian airspace for long. “But they are using, again as a part of these shaping operations, they are using airstrikes from fixed-wing bombers in support of what they are trying to get done on the ground.”
The U.S. and NATO continue to refuse to send direct aircraft to Ukraine but have instead agreed to send parts to bolster Kyiv’s air defenses.
The senior official said that more than 20 additional aircraft have been available to Ukraine’s defenses with the help of NATO allies over the last three weeks.
And additional air defenses have been deployed through the U.S.’s latest security package.
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NATO nations and other allies convened in Germany Tuesday to discuss what more can be done to help Ukraine as officials warn Russia’s second offensive is likely to even more brutal than the first.
Ukraine’s defense ministry has claimed that Russia has lost 184 aircraft since the invasion began, but these figures have not been verified.