“We need certain armaments, which I publicly told [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and earlier [Russian Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev”, Lukashenko said during a visit to the Minsk District. They chanted “the Russian base makes us a target” and “the Russian base is occupation”. “I don’t know anything about it”, Lukashenko was quoted as saying by official news agency Belta.
Russian Federation already has a radar system and a navy communications facility in its ex-Soviet ally, but an air base would present a major boost to its military presence in the neighboring state.
On Sunday around 400 Belarussians protested against the base in central Minsk.
The Belarusian leader hinted Tuesday that Moscow might want to establish the base to try to hamper Belarus’ efforts to warm up ties with the West.
In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a government proposal to sign a deal for the military air base, and ordered officials to start talks on the issue with Belarus.
The two countries have traditionally close relations, marked by Belarus’ dependence on Russian energy and subsidies.
The authoritarian leader, who has been slapped with Western sanctions for his crackdown on dissent, has in recent years skillfully maneuvered between Russian Federation and the West, wary of Moscow’s military resurgence.
Sunday’s protest came one week before a presidential election expected to give Lukashenko a fifth term.