Russia drops paratroopers into Belarus during military drills

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian paratroopers parachuted into Belarus on Wednesday as part of joint military drills, the Ministry of Defence said.

The show of force happened on the same day as President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus was sworn in for a new term in an inauguration denounced as illegitimate by the opposition, which called for more protests against his 26-year rule.

Russia is a close ally of Belarus and the Russian-Belarusian “Slavic Brotherhood” military exercises have been interpreted by some military analysts as a show of support for Lukashenko by Moscow.

The defence ministry said in a statement that 900 Russians were taking part in the drills, as well as 100 separate items of military equipment.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn