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Ukraine conflict: Russia masses helicopter forces in Belarus

Russia is holding around 90 helicopters in reserve at an airbase in central Belarus, ready to intervene in the war in Ukraine, according to commercial satellite imagery of airbases and forward operating sites in the east European country.

The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) has deployed some 180 attack, assault, and heavy lift helicopters to Belarus to support Moscow's ground troops fighting in Ukraine, but satellite imagery dated from 3 and 6 March indicates that only half have so far been deployed to forward operating sites near the Ukrainian border. The remainder are positioned at Machulishchy airbase, outside the Belarus capital Minsk, including more than 15 Mil Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters and more than 70 Mi-8 assault helicopters. These seem to be overwhelmingly VKS assets. The Belarus Air and Air Defence also operated helicopters from the base before the war, but usually had less than 10 helicopters there, according to pre-war satellite imagery.

Since the start of its war against Ukraine, the Russian military has been operating around 80 helicopters from three forward operating sites in southeastern Belarus, to bring them within operating range of Kyiv. The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has subsequently posted video imagery online, which appears to indicate these sites, along with the Kamov Ka-52s, Mil Mi-8s, Mi-24s, and Mi-28s located there. They appear to have remained in operation, providing logistic, strike, and aerial escort support to Russian troops fighting around Kyiv.

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