Vladimir Putin delivered a predictably strong performance in a friendly hockey game on Wednesday in St Petersburg, scoring seven goals in an 18-7 blowout victory alongside Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko.
The two leaders, who had earlier announced they will hold joint war games next year, put on a show of friendship as they joined forces as teammates for the game alongside former Soviet hockey stars.
The Russian president opened the scoring and Lukashenko added two, although their opponents failed to put up much resistance, perhaps through fear of potential reprisals.
Footage shows their opponents backing off as Putin gingerly skated towards the goal for one of several scoring opportunities on the day.
Putin donned his favoured number 11 jersey as he took to the ice for the white team, with Lukashenko given the coveted number one shirt.
Cold Floor! Vladimir Putin races towards goal during an ice hockey game with Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday
Puck-ashenko! The Belarusian was given the coveted number one shirt as the pair put on a show of friendship at the match
The pair played on the same time during the match which took place after a meeting in St Petersburg
They were also joined by the Belarusian’s son Nikolai during the match at the Manezh children’s and youth sports school in Strelna.
The match was held after the pair held meetings about a new round of joint military drills to take place in February or March.
Speaking during a meeting in St. Petersburg, Putin said military officials will coordinate details.
Putin’s announcement comes amid a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that raised Western fears of an invasion.
Some officials in Ukraine have voiced concern that Russia may attack the country from Belarusian territory.
The Russian president opened the scoring and Lukashenko added two in the 18-7 victory
Putin nets one of his seven goals during the friendly match alongside former professional ice hockey stars
Putin, pictured taking a breather, donned the number 11 jersey as he took to the ice for the white team
Russia has denied having plans to attack its neighbor, but urged the U.S. and its allies to provide guarantees that NATO doesn’t expand to Ukraine or deploy its weapons there – demands the West has rejected.
Russia and Belarus have a union agreement envisaging close political, economic and military ties, and Moscow has staunchly backed Lukashenko amid Western pressure.
That pressure intensified after a brutal crackdown on domestic protests fueled by Lukashenko’s reelection to a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West say was rigged.
Tensions have escalated further since the summer over the arrival of thousands of migrants and refugees on Belarus’ border with EU member Poland.
The EU has accused Lukashenko of retaliating for its sanctions by using desperate asylum-seekers as pawns and tricking them into trying to enter Poland.
The match was held after the pair held meetings about a new round of joint military drills to take place in February or March
Putin practises ahead of the crunch game during which he scored nearly half of his team’s goals
Russia and Belarus have a union agreement envisaging close political, economic and military ties. Pictured: Lukashenko (right) with former ice hockey player Alexander Yakushev
Moscow has repeatedly sent its nuclear capable bombers on patrol over Belarus in recent weeks
In a show of support for Lukashenko, Russia conducted massive war games with Belarus in September that involved 200,000 troops.
In recent weeks, Moscow has repeatedly sent its nuclear capable bombers on patrol over Belarus in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, Russian and Belarusian fighter jets jointly patrolled Belarus’ air space.
Last month, Lukashenko said that Belarus would be ready to host Russian nuclear weapons.
The Belarusian leader hasn’t elaborated on what kind of Russian atomic weapons Belarus would be willing to accommodate, but noted that the ex-Soviet nation has carefully preserved the necessary military infrastructure dating back to the time of the USSR.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has described Lukashenko’s offer as a ‘serious warning prompted by reckless Western policy.’