Belarus plans joint military training centres with Russia, pro-Lukashenko channel says

(Reuters) - Belarus plans to create joint military training centres with Russia, a Telegram channel close to Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday.

The move could bolster Russia's struggling war effort in Ukraine by providing training grounds in Belarus for newly mobilised soldiers, something Western analysts have flagged as a logical step for Moscow at a time when its army is stretched and depleted.

Lukashenko allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin, his close ally, to use Belarusian territory as a platform for the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. But he has refrained from committing his army to fight alongside Russia's in the eight-month-old war.

Lukashenko has said he expects 9,000 Russian troops to be deployed in Belarus as part of a joint military grouping he announced on Oct. 10.

Neither side has disclosed how many are in Belarus now or how the joint force will be deployed. Its creation appears at least partly aimed at forcing Ukraine to beef up security near its northern border with Belarus and diverting forces from its front lines with Russia in the south and east.

The "First Pool" Telegram channel said Lukashenko had signed a decree approving a draft agreement with Russia to establish joint training centres for military personnel, but that the agreement was subject to further negotiations.

(Reporting by Reuters)