Belarusian President Lukashenko meets with Russian defense minister in Minsk, state media reports

Radina Gigova and Mariya Knight

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Minsk on Monday, according to Belarusian state news agency BelTa.

The Russian defense minister arrived in the Belarusian capital to follow-up on recent agreements between Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to BelTa.

Lukashenko told Shoigu that he hopes Russia would protect Belarus “as its own territory” in case of aggression, according to BelTa.

They also discussed combat training and cohesion of the two countries’ joint forces, which includes Russian servicemen who are on the territory of Belarus, according to BelTA, which quoted Lukashenko saying there are currently “several thousand” Russian servicemen in Belarus. 

Some context: Belarus is one of Russia’s few allies in its war on Ukraine. While the country’s military isn’t directly involved in the fighting, Belarus helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, allowing the Kremlin’s troops to enter the country from its territory.

CNN’s Ivana Kottasová, Lindsay Isaac and Anna Chernova contributed to this post.

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