Russian air base in Belarus will begin functioning in 2013

Russia is creating its first air base in Belarus, which will be located in the city of Lida, not far from the Polish-Lithuanian border, and the base will begin functioning in 2013, Lieutenant-General Viktor Bondarev, commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said.

"The creation of a Russian air base in Belarus is a result of the fulfillment of an intergovernmental agreement on the strengthening of the military component of the Union State, which we have a duty to fulfill. As a member of the Union State, Russia has a duty to form and have its air base there," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Responding to a question as to whether the air base will be purely Russian or will be Russian-Belarusian, Bondarev said: "First it will be Russian and then we'll see."

"The location of the air base ha been determined. It will be located in the city of Lida, northwestern Belarus. The base will be equipped by the Belarusian authorities, and we will help them with that. The air base will be an important element of the first strategic defense echelon of the Union State, protecting the Belarusian airspace," he said.

The Russian air base in Belarus will begin functioning this year, Bondarev said. "The base will begin functioning this year, in several months. Modified destroyers Su-27SMZ will be placed on it," he said.

Speaking about the possibility of strengthening the air group at the base, Bondarev said: "So far we will place Su-27SMZ destroyers there and then we will see what happens and will make a final decision."

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