WARSAW, Poland — In another sign of tightening defense ties between Belarus and Russia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has announced his country’s defense industry is ready to kick off the manufacturing of Sukhoi Su-25 ground-attack aircraft.

Some analysts suggest the move could be related to Moscow’s plan to streamline Minsk’s defense industry capacities toward its war against Ukraine.

The authoritarian leader made the announcement during a Feb. 17 meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow’s Novo-Ogaryovo suburb.

“As I was informed by the [Belarusian] government, they are ready to start producing the Su-25 aircraft which has proven itself well in Ukraine as an attack aircraft, a workhorse,” Lukashenko said, as quoted in a statement released by his office. “They are ready to produce it even in Belarus with a small amount of appropriate technological support from the Russian Federation.”

Belarus’s involvement in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has pushed Minsk toward even closer military cooperation with Moscow. Among other weapons, Belarus has received S-400 air defense systems and Iskander missile systems from Russia.

Last August, Lukashenko announced Moscow upgraded his nation’s Su-25s to enable them to carry tactical atomic weapons. Industry publications estimate the Belarusian military operates 67 Su-25 jets, which makes the fighter the most prevalent combat aircraft in its fleet.

The dictator also said that, since the war began, cooperation was established between numerous Russian and Belarusian “enterprises that previously considered each other competitors,” including truck-makers Kamaz and Minsk Automobile Plant.

Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in a recent analysis that the “Kremlin will likely subsume elements of Belarus’ defense industrial base (DIB) as part of Moscow’s larger effort to reequip the Russian military to support a protracted war against Ukraine.”

Russia “may commandeer Belarusian factories and retool them to produce critical materiel that the Russian military needs,” according to the analysis.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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