Russian Federation launches Zapad war games in Belarus

As for the Russia-Belarus joint military exercise Zapad-2017 (West-2017) that are to kick off on Thursday, they are of purely defense nature, he stressed.

The exercises that Russian Federation is conducting with its Eastern European ally, Belarus, have attracted intense attention amid nervousness over Moscow's recent military adventures and its tensions with the West.

According to Belarus and Russian Federation, the exercise involves 12,700 soldiers and 250 tanks, as well as 200 pieces of artillery, 70 planes and helicopters and 10 warships on the borders of the Baltic states, Finland, and Poland.

The West 2017 drills, which will proceed until September 20, are purely defensive in nature and are not directed against any state or groups of states, the ministry statement said.

Staged tactical events and live-fire exercises set to involve aircraft and air defense units will take place at Belarus' Lepelsky, Losvido, Borisovsky, Osipovichsky, Ruzhansky and Domanovsky training ranges, in the Dretun and Glubokoye areas in Belarus, and also at the Luzhsky, Strugi Krasnye, and Pravdinsky training ranges in Russian Federation. After these military preparations many troops stayed in the area to participate in the subsequent war with Ukraine.

In June, 5,300 troops from 10 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries took part in the "Iron Wolf" military drills in Lithuania, aiming to counter the "Russian threat". The participation of an armored force, the 1st Armored Guards Army, that Western planners view as a massive offensive fist, has prompted further skepticism that the exercises will only run defensive practices.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stepped up security on his country's border with Belarus, warning that the Zapad (West) 2017 exercises could be a prelude to an invasion. Non-NATO member Sweden has made a decision to strengthen its armed forces after spending has fallen to about 1 percent after it accounted for more than two percent of economic output in the early 1990s and began to reintroduce the compulsory recruitment system.

The exercises began Thursday night with units simulating hunting down and destroying reconnaissance agents belonging to illegal armed groups, according to Oleg Belokonev, the Belarusian Deputy Defense Minister. It also serves to validate aspects of the Ukraine's military training program. What's more, the exercises will likely be used to covertly increase Moscow's military presence in both Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. "They say, 'We're just doing an exercise, ' and then all of a sudden they've moved all these people and capabilities somewhere".

Moscow officials said the exercises are in no way meant to stage attacks on other places and that the West was "whipping up hysteria" over the drills, Reuters reported. In addition, according to military analysts, Belarus acts as the ally of the aggressor country. Russian Federation has said that some 12,700 troops will be involved but the actual figure is not certain.

  • Joey Payne