Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and Russian president Vladimir Putin have decided to deepen economic ties between their two nations.
During their recent meeting, they agreed on forming common energy and financial markets. The move comes as Belarus faces Western sanctions, in response to political repression in the country. The two countries have also started joint military exercises that are being closely monitored by NATO.
But many Belarusians don't want their country to be reliant on Russia, and have criticized Moscow's growing dominance.
The "Zapad 2021" (West 2021) strategic exercises are set to kick off on September 10 in four training grounds in Belarus and nine in Russia. Some 200,000 soldiers will be participating in total. According to information from Minsk, only 12,800 soldiers, including 2,500 from Russia and 50 from Kazakhstan, will be involved in the first part, which is taking place on Belarusian territory.
So far, the Collective Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF) of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have conducted military exercises in Russia and Belarus every two years. The "West" exercises last took place in 2017.
This year, forces from Armenia, Kazakhstan, India, Kirgisztan, Mongolia, Serbia and Sri Lanka will also participate in the second part on Russian soil. China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Pakistan and Uzbekistan will send observers.
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