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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Belarus resolved to build up armed forces - President Lukashenko

RIA Novosti

24/06/2006 16:06 MINSK, June 24 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus is determined to strengthen its armed forces at any cost, President Alexander Lukashenko said Saturday, summing up the results of a large-scale military exercise with Russia.

Belarus is hosting the Union Shield-2006 exercise with Russia on June 17-25, attended by the leaders of a regional security bloc's member states.

"Those who do not feed their own soldiers will have to feed other countries' soldiers," he said, adding that the armed forces' mission was to secure peace for the country's citizens.

"We are not setting the pace here. Iraq is still in flames, and there is trouble in Iran. Military bases are springing up here, on the western border, like mushrooms after a rain," he said.

He also said his country's participation in an integrated air defense system with Russia helped strengthen the country's sovereignty.

The command and staff exercise involves a total of 8,800 servicemen, of which about 7,000 represent Belarus.

Russia's 1,800-strong force includes units of the 20th Army of the Moscow Military District, alongside air force and air defense units. Russia deployed strategic bombers, Su-24M Fencer tactical bombers, Su-27SM Flanker fighters, two new Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters and a modernized A-50 Mainstay AWACS plane.

The exercise also involves 40 tanks, 180 armored infantry carriers, 140 anti-tank guided missiles, and 30 multiple launch rocket systems.

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