WARSAW, Poland — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has instructed the country’s defense industry to develop missile systems to boost its military’s strike capabilities as well as combat unmanned aerial vehicles to reinforce its air force, according to Roman Golovchenko, the chairman of the Belarusian State Military Industrial Committee.

“Conflicts come to life in various continents. Tensions between superpowers are on the rise. This is why, certainly, there is demand for defensive weapons," Golovchenko told the state-run news agency BelTA. “The Belarusian defense industry is ready to satisfy the demand. I hope the R&D products the head of state has approved will allow us to hit our targets.”

Golovchenko said that the Polonez multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) is the first missile system to be completed by the Belarusian defense industry, and Lukashenko "has given instructions to develop this sphere in the future" as a "key" field of the country’s military R&D.

Belarus is a member of the Russia-backed Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which is designed as a counterbalance to NATO. However, Minsk is also developing military cooperation with various countries outside the organization in a bid to mark its independence from Moscow and bolster ties with like-minded governments.

Earlier this year, Azerbaijan signed a contract with Belarus to acquire the Polonez missile systems in response to Armenia’s purchase of Iskander missiles from Russia. Minsk has also agreed to supply four Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters to Serbia, a non-member observer state to the CSTO, and the two countries were reportedly in talks over the potential sale of S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems to Belgrade. In addition to this, Belarus has announced projects to jointly produce drones with China and Turkmenistan, among others.

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