May 22, 2018

First stage of joint strategic exercise Zapad 2017 continues

17 September 2017, 10:20 | Opal Carroll

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TIRANA, Albania-A senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) official says there's reason to be concerned about the large-scale Zapad 2017 military maneuvers being conducted now by Russian Federation and Belarus, since they could be seen as "a serious preparation for big war".

Named Zapad-2017 (West-2017), the manoeuvres, scheduled to last until Sept 20, are taking place on the territory of Moscow's closest ally Belarus, in Russia's European exclave of Kaliningrad and in its frontier Pskov and Leningrad regions.

He says the number of troops in the exercises-which the Russians say is about 12,700-could actually be between 70,000 to 100,000.

The Russian war games come as Ukraine on Monday launched annual joint military exercises with the USA and a host of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

"The degree of mobilization is really impressive", Soloch said on private Radio Zet.

Russian Federation and Belarus are now holding major war games near Poland's border.

Earlier this week Jens Stoltenberg, NATO general secretary, said Russian Federation has every right to hold drills, but accused it of using "loopholes" to avoid scrutiny.

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Organizers have invented three "aggressor countries" - Veishnoriya, Lubeniya and Vesbasriya - to whose attacks the Russian and Belarusian militaries will simulate a response. Ukraine, locked in a conflict with Russia-backed separatists, is conducting its own military exercises, called "Unflinching Tenacity, " and neutral Sweden has begun exercises with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that involve 19,000 troops. The Baltic States and Poland fear that these monikers are just poorly disguised terms for their own countries. "It is an open preparation for war with the West", Grybauskaite told reporters.

There is also unease in Kyiv, and Ukraine is now conducting its own military exercises, called "Unflinching Tenacity", scheduled to end Friday.

A large-scale exercise Zapad-2017 began in Russian Federation and Belarus on September 14.

Russian authorities have moved to reassure the West as the country embarks upon large scale military exercises which began yesterday on the borders of Europe.

"We are not threatening anyone", Oleg Voinov, an adviser to the Belarusian Defense Minister, told journalists Thursday.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Thursday that Russia had been completely open and transparent about its military's involvement in the exercises.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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