Two long-range strategic Tu-22M3 bombers flew a four-hour mission to join patrols of air space along the western borders of ally Belarus, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.

Russian bomber patrol marked a third such mission since last month.
Russian bomber patrol marked a third such mission since last month. (AP)

A pair of nuclear-capable Russian long-range bombers have patrolled the skies over Belarus on a mission intended to underline close defence ties between the two allies amid tensions with the West.

The Russian Defence Ministry said two Tu-22M3 flew a four-hour mission on Saturday to practice “performing joint tasks with the Belarusian air force and air defence.” 

The bombers were escorted by Belarus' Su-30 fighter jets, which Russia has supplied to its ally.

The patrol flight comes amid Western concerns over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that raised fears of an invasion.

Moscow has denied plans for such an attack, but urged the West to provide security guarantees that would exclude NATO's expansion to Ukraine and the deployment of the alliance's weapons there.

Some Ukrainian officials have voiced concern that Russia may use the territory of its ally Belarus for attacking Ukraine.

READ MORE: Russia sends nuclear-capable bombers over Belarus in show of support

Moscow-Minsk ties

Moscow has strongly supported Belarus amid a tense standoff last month when thousands of migrants and refugees, most of them from the Middle East, gathered on the Belarusian side of the border with Poland in the hope of crossing into Western Europe.

The European Union has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging illegal border crossings.

The bloc said Lukashenko launched a “hybrid attack” to retaliate against EU sanctions on his government for its crackdown on internal dissent after his 2020 reelection.

Amid tensions with the West, Lukashenko said last month that his country would be ready to host Russian nuclear weapons.

The Belarusian leader wouldn’t elaborate on what kind of weapons Belarus would be willing to accommodate, but noted that the ex-Soviet nation has carefully preserved the necessary military infrastructure dating back to the time of the USSR.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has described Lukashenko’s offer as a “serious warning prompted by reckless Western policy.”

READ MORE: How Russia is militarising Belarus

Source: AP