Belarus is hosting Chinese troops for a joint military drill near its border with NATO member Poland, officials said Tuesday, the first such exercise reflecting growing defense ties between the two countries.

The 11-day drill named Eagle Assault 2024 started on Monday at a shooting range in the Brest region close to Poland. It comes ahead of NATO’s summit in Washington that opens on Tuesday and after Belarus last week joined a regional security organization led by China and Russia.

Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country of 9.5 million with an iron hand for three decades, has relied on close ties with his main sponsor and ally Russia, and also sought to forge increasingly close relations with China.

Lukashenko has become a pariah in the West after unleashing a brutal crackdown on the opposition in response to massive protests in 2020, triggered by his disputed reelection that the opposition and the West denounced as rigged. The West has responded by imposing sweeping sanctions on Belarus.

Source: AP News
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