Putin and Lukashenko team up for ice hockey game in Russia

The two presidents played the friendly match after bilateral talks


The leaders of Russia and Belarus joined forces on the ice rink for a decisive 18:7 win in an ice hockey game in St Petersburg on Wednesday.

Putin and Lukashenko played for the same team. Putin scored seven goals and Lukashenko two goals.

The two presidents played the friendly match after bilateral talks broadcast on state television.

It comes as Russia and Belarus plan to hold joint military drills in February or March 2022, President Vladimir Putin said earlier on Wednesday.

The planned exercises, on Belarusian territory, come amid unprecedented East-West tensions, with Russia demanding that NATO promise not to admit Ukraine, which borders both Russia and Belarus. Ukraine says Russia may be preparing an invasion, something Moscow had denied.

US President Joe Biden will speak with Putin on Thursday, the White House said, as Washington crafts a common response to Russia's military build-up on the Ukraine border with European allies.

The two leaders will discuss a range of topics, including upcoming security talks between the countries and a tense situation in Europe, White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

The talks come as the US and Western allies have watched the build-up of Russian troops near the border of Ukraine, growing to an estimated 100,000 and fuelling fears that Moscow is preparing to invade Ukraine.

Mr Putin said earlier this week he would ponder a slew of options if the West fails to meet his push for security guarantees precluding Nato’s expansion to Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that Nato deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.