The authoritarian leader told reporters during a press briefing on Sept. 1 the batch will include dozens of fighter jets, helicopters, and defense systems—likely the S-400 air defense systems, Belta news agency reported.
“I signed the order the day before yesterday. We will get tens of aircraft, tens of helicopters, and most importantly air defense systems soon. I don’t want to say how much money and what else it cost us. We may even get S-400 [air defense systems]. We need them a lot, I’ve already talked about it,” Lukashenko said.
“In other words, we will get cutting-edge hardware. We will upgrade equipment,” he added. “If we see during the exercise [Belarusian–Russian strategic army exercise Zapad-2021] that we need something extra, then we will buy it from the Russian Federation and it will enter service.”
The announcement highlights Moscow’s growing support for Lukashenko, whose election to a sixth term in August 2020 triggered months of protests and allegations of a rigged vote from the Belarusian opposition and the West.
The upcoming strategic drills in Belarus named Zapad-2021 (West-2021) will involve an estimated 200,000 servicemen, including those from Moscow-led defense bloc member Kazakhstan, as well as tanks, artillery, and aircraft, the ministry announced in a statement.
Lukashenko announced the expected acquisition as Russia and Belarus prepare to conduct the joint war games next week. The drills are set to involve about 200,000 troops. The scale of the exercise will be bigger than the previous one, named “Zapad-2020 (West-2020).”
Russia has staunchly backed the Belarusian regime’s longtime leader as his government faced a series of bruising sanctions from the United States and the European Union. The sanctions were imposed in response to a brutal crackdown on the post-election protests, including the arrests of more than 35,000 people and police beating thousands of demonstrators.
The two ex-Soviet neighbors have a union agreement that envisages close political, economic, and military ties. In the past, Lukashenko often accused Moscow of forging plots to force Belarus to abandon its independence, but he has dropped such rhetoric after his crackdown on protest made him a pariah in the West and forced him to rely squarely on the Kremlin’s support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.