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Kazakhstan Says Military Drills In Belarus Separate From Political Situation There

NUR-SULTAN — Kazakhstan’s Defense Ministry says military maneuvers scheduled to be held in Belarus in October by the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have nothing to do with ongoing protests against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The ministry’s spokesman Ghani Nusipov said on September 16 that the exercises called Unbreakable Brotherhood by the military forces of CSTO member states — Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Tajikistan, had been scheduled long before the disputed August 9 presidential poll in Belarus, which has sparked mass protests since Lukashenka was declared the winner in a landslide.

“The maneuvers have been held annually since 2012 and are held with the CSTO’s Collective Peacekeeping Forces. The decision to hold the drills in Belarus this year was approved by the CSTO’s Council of Defense Ministers and the Committee of Secretaries of the CSTO Security Councils on November 8, 2018. These exercises are not connected with the internal political situation in Belarus, ” Nusipov said.

A day earlier, Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Unbreakable Brotherhood-2020 exercises will be held on October 12-16 in Belarus.

Senior Russian Defense Ministry officials were on a visit to Belarus on September 16, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred to Lukashenka as the “legitimate president” of Belarus.

Such statements and actions have been met by many in Belarus and the West as ways to show Moscow’s support for the beleaguered Lukashenka, who on September 14 held talks with President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort of Sochi.

On the day of Lukashenka-Putin talks, another set of military exercises called Slavic Brotherhood-2020 kicked off in western Belarus. These drills are expected to last until September 25 with participation of Russian and Belarusian armed forces.

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