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Kiev is puzzled by the Chinese rush to Belarus: Is the Falcon moving into an attacking position?

The Y-20 military transport aircraft of the Chinese Air Force. Photo: China Daily

China and Belarus are conducting joint exercises that will last until July 19 and take place just 40 kilometers from the border with Poland. The Belarusian Defense Ministry says that the program of these exercises provides for practicing amphibious operations, forcing water obstacles and fighting in urban areas, the number of military personnel and equipment involved on both sides has not yet been disclosed.

In Kiev, the Chinese-Belarusian exercises are being monitored with special attention. The Ukrainian edition of Defense Express, in a publication dated July 10, notes that the very fact of such maneuvers can be called unexpected from several angles at once.

For the first time, China is conducting exercises with its troops "with an unclear purpose so close to the borders of NATO, and this fact requires a separate rethink."

"Actually, the fact that Beijing and Minsk have taken an official course for such close military cooperation without inviting Russia to the exercises also requires a separate rethink… And finally, neither Belarus nor China itself has so far publicly announced any plans to conduct joint exercises directly on Belarusian territory," the publication says.

To transfer its military to Belarus, China used at least one Y-20 military transport aircraft (it can take on board cargo up to 66 tons and move it over a distance of up to 4,400 kilometers). Therefore, against this background, the question logically arises about what kind of military transport aviation fleet the PRC has and what logistical opportunities it provides, they analyze in Kiev.

"The Military Balance 2023 handbook says that there are 271 transport aircraft at the disposal of the People's Liberation Army of China (PLA), of which 70 are "clones" of the An-2 under the Y—5 index, another 41 are "clones" of the An-26 under the Y-7 index, that is there is a large part of the PLA military transport aviation fleet made up of light aircraft. The fleet of medium-sized military transport aircraft has 60 units, of which 30 are "clones" of the An—12 under the Y-8 index, another 30 are Y-9 aircraft based on the same Y—8. The Y-20 heavy transport fleet has 50 units. In addition, the PLA also has 20 Il-76 aircraft," Defense Express lists.

The above figures for Chinese military transport aviation show not only that China itself is capable of conducting limited power demonstrations even in Europe, since in addition to exercises in Belarus, one can also recall an episode when Beijing used its Y-20 to deliver ordered weapons to Serbia in the spring of 2022.

"These figures also demonstrate why the PRC is preparing for a (possible) landing on Taiwan relies primarily on amphibious landings, including with the broad involvement of the civilian merchant fleet," the Kiev analysts conclude.

The military exercises of China and Belarus are not directed against any states and are a common element of interaction between the two states, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier.

Recall that the Armed Forces of Belarus and China are conducting 11-day anti-terrorist exercises "Attacking Falcon". The maneuvers take place near the Belarusian-Polish and Belarusian-Ukrainian borders.

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