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Belarusian defense minister to visit Moscow for military talks

RIA Novosti


MINSK/MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - The new Belarusian defense minister, Yury Zhadobin, will discuss military cooperation between Russia and the ex-Soviet state with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov on January 29 in Moscow, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The ministers will focus on the military cooperation between the two countries in 2010, the spokesman said.

Zhadobin, the former state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, was appointed defense minister in early December 2009. Zhadobin has called military cooperation with Russia, which "has a strategic nature and plays a determinative role in assuring national security", a top priority for the Belarusian government.

In September 2009, Russia and Belarus held the Zapad 2009 military exercises, which involved around 13,000 service personnel, 63 airplanes, 40 helicopters, 470 infantry fighting vehicles, 228 tanks and 234 artillery pieces.

The exercise, among other things, rehearsed interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish earlier in 2009. In December that year, the agreement was ratified by the Russian parliament.

Following the drills, ambassadors from 28 NATO countries voiced concern over the size and the scenario of the exercises. However, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in October 2009 that the exercises did not pose any threat to NATO members.

Earlier this month, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko ordered efforts to speed up work to draft a new national security concept citing global political and economic challenges.

Though he said much work had been done jointly with Russia in defense and security, including the Zapad 2009 drills, he insisted that more was left to be done.

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