Belarus releases footage of joint drills with Russia

STORY: Earlier Belarus said the air force drills were defensive in nature to prepare for possible combat missions, but the move comes as concerns grow that Moscow is pushing Minsk to join the war in Ukraine.

The exercises which will last until February 1 are to involve training for "aerial reconnaissance, deflecting air strikes, air cover of important objects and communications", according to Belarusian official statement.

The ongoing build-up of Russian troops in Belarus, combined with a flurry of military activity in the country, is an echo to what was happening there just before Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine when Moscow used the country as a springboard to launch the attack.

This has triggered fears in Kyiv and the West that Russia could use its dutiful ally to mount a new ground offensive on Ukraine.