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Russian paratroopers die during jump in snap drill in Belarus

Russian paratrooper accident in Belarus
Belarus defense ministry of the maneuver in Grodno

Two Russian paratroopers died in an exercise on Friday in Belarus when their parachutes collided during a jump, the Russian defense ministry said.

The paratroopers were part of a group of 250 Russian soldiers that jumped from Il-76 transport planes over the Grodno region near the border with Poland. The operation ran in parallel with two consecutive days of Tu-160 flights over Belarus in what was interpreted as Russia’s expression of support to Belarus in its row with the EU and the migrant crisis in Poland.

As explained by the defense ministry, the paratroopers’ parachutes tangled due to a sudden strong gust of wind. One of the soldiers tried to stop their uncontrolled fall with his reserve parachute, but did not succeed as the altitude was too low. They were taken to hospital following the hard landing where they died from the sustained injuries.

An Interfax report said the deceased paratroopers were “contract soldiers.”

The Belarusian defense ministry said the maneuver was designed to test the readiness of its rapid response forces in response to a deteriorating situation near its border.

Russia has so far supported Belarus in its row with the European Union as migrants from the Middle East are gathering in Belarus with the goal of crossing into Poland and the EU.

The United Nations accused Belarus of orchestrating “instrumentalization of human beings whose lives and wellbeing have been put in danger for political purposes by Belarus, with the objective of destabilizing neighboring countries and the European Union’s external border and diverting attention away from its own increasing human rights violations.”

NATO has also issued a statement in support of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, saying it “strongly condemns the continued instrumentalization of irregular migration artificially created by Belarus as part of hybrid actions targeted against for political purposes.”