Russia-Belarus war games send signal to the West

The live fire drills are the culmination of the "Zapad-2021" war games, and will run until next Thursday on Russia's and Belarus's western flanks including sites close to NATO and the European Union's borders.

The maneuvers are held every four years, but this year's drill has been seen as a particular signal of Russia's support for Belarus and its leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has been ostracized by the West for cracking down on dissent.

Russia sees Belarus as a strategically important buffer to its west, and helped to keep Lukashenko in power with loans and political backing while he crushed a popular uprising last year.

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