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Putin Backs Plan For New Russian Air Base In Belarus

Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed the establishment of an air base in Belarus, the latest in a series of moves by Moscow to project Russian military power abroad.

Putin said in a September 19 statement that he had agreed to a government proposal to sign a deal for the military air base and had ordered defense and Foreign Ministry officials to start talks on the issue with Belarus.

The plan is not expected to face major obstacles.

Russian defense officials have said the base would station Su-27 fighter jets.

Russia has two military facilities in Belarus -- a radar station and a submarine communications center.

It also has some fighter aircraft in Belarus, but the plan would establish the first full-scale base there since Soviet times.

The announcement comes at a time of tensions between Russian and the West over Russia's involvement in Ukraine's civil war and deployments of Russian military troops and weaponry to Syria.

Analysts say the move also could signal the Kremlin's interest in keeping unpredictable Belarus within Moscow's geopolitical orbit.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and Interfax