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Russian Federation begins large scale Zapad 2017 military exercise in Belarus

15 September 2017

According to the Belarusian Ministry of Defense, the military exercises will be held on seven training grounds and in two separate localities in the territory of Belarus.

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. They say Russian Federation could use the occasion to position a large, permanent contingent of troops in Belarus, leaving the country at the mercy of any armed confrontation involving Moscow. This was stated by President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite. The primary goal in these quadrennial war games is to prepare Russian troops for a major war - by some European estimates, as many as 100,000 could take part in the manoeuvres from September 14-20 - with their "presumed opponents" being the US and its allies.

The Zapad 2017 military exercise is held on the border with Poland, Lithuania and Belarus.

The Zapad 2017 scenario simulates a situation in which the opposing sides are located within the actual borders of Belarus: on one side, "the Northern", which include the Belarus-Russia Union State, and on the other side "the Western", which represent a coalition of interested states such as Veishnoriya, Vesbariya and Lubeniya. This year's exercises, called Zapad ("West") 2017, are the first since Russian Federation annexed the Crimea in 2014.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stepped up security on Ukraine's borders while North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops deployed in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which border on Belarus and Russian Federation have been ordered to be watchful of any provocation and in case of air violation, disengagement measures by already deployed NATO-air-policing mission that guards the Baltic republics.

The danger has increased "This is part of a pattern, which we've seen developed over several years with a more asserted Russian Federation, a Russia which has tripled defense spending over the last years, which is using force against neighbors and which is exercising much more modern capabilities in a more aggressive way", Stoltenberg said. "The exercise is absolutely peaceful, and absolutely defensive in nature", Fomin told Germany's Deutsche Welle news service.

In Crimea, Moscow proved a master of "hybrid warfare", with its mix of cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, and use of Russian and local forces without insignia. Back in 2008, military exercises also preceded Russia's invasion of Georgia. "History teaches us that we need to see and watch and prepare for the activities of Russian Federation", she added.

USA tanks, combat vehicles and other military equipment have arrived in the Polish city of Gdansk as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO exercise aimed at boosting the alliance's military presence in Eastern Europe. In addition, according to military analysts, Belarus acts as the ally of the aggressor country.

Russian Federation begins large scale Zapad 2017 military exercise in Belarus