Belarus has announced it had begun joint air force drills with Russia on its territory on Monday Jan. 16.

The military exercises have sparked concern in Kyiv and the west that Minsk was being dragged into fighting alongside Moscow.

Russian and Belarusian forces will practice aerial reconnaissance, joint patrolling of the airspace along the border, air support for groups of troops, airdropping, cargo delivery, and evacuation of wounded servicemen.

"The main purpose of the exercise is to enhance interoperability in the joint performance of training and combat missions," the Belarus Defense Ministry said in a statement.

All military airfields and training grounds located on Belarusian territory are involved in the exercise.

Belarusian officials have described the drills as defensive, reports AFP.

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"The exercise is purely defensive in nature," Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of Belarus's Security Council, said in remarks carried Sunday by the defense ministry's Telegram channel.

He added that the situation on Belarus's border with Ukraine was "not very calm" but Minsk is ready for "any provocative actions" from Kyiv.

President Alexander Lukashenko has insisted that he will not send Belarusian troops into Ukraine.

Belarus allowed Russia -- its main political ally and chief creditor -- to use Belarusian territory as a launching pad for its Ukraine offensive.

In October, Minsk said it was establishing a joint regional force with Moscow with several thousand Russian servicemen arriving to the country.

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Four cargo planes and eight fighter jets belonging to the Russian Air Force have flown into Belarus – as reported by the monitoring group Belaruski Hayun.

"At least some of the cargo planes brought something, probably ammunition for the fighters. The planes probably arrived to participate in the joint flight and tactical exercises," observers noted.

The planes landed at the Baranovichi military airfield in Belarus.

Four Su-34 planes, four Su-30 planes, three AN-12, and one AN-26 arrived in Belarus.

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Two Su-34 aircraft of the Russian Air Force were already deployed at the Baranovichi air base.

"These military exercises are expected to take place from Jan. 16 to Feb. 1," the report noted.

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