Russia and Belarus will hold over 20 joint military exercises in 2022, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced on Thursday.

The main of the planned drills, Vostok-2022 (East-2022), will take place in the east of Russia, where a large number of troops will be shifted from Belarus, he told a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk.

The minister reassured Lukashenko that Belarus can rely on firm support from Russia in its stance to create a single defense space within the borders of the Union State – an alliance between Russia and Belarus. “Russia highly appreciates your determination to resist the destructive line of the West … ,” he said.

The advantages of having a joint defense system were demonstrated while dealing with the recent protests in Kazakhstan, the minister said, adding: “The Republic of Belarus is our strategic partner, closest friend and ally.”

Shoygu arrived in Belarus to command the joint Russian-Belarusian military drill Allied Determination 2022.

The drill will last until Feb. 20 and involves work on suppressing and repelling external aggression, protecting the interests of the Union State, as well as countering terrorism.

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