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Russia, Belarus begin large-scale war games that have concerned NATO

Europe
14.09.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Moscow (dpa) - Russia and its close military ally and neighbour Belarus began on Thursday a series of war games that NATO has expressed particular concern over.

The week-long Zapad ("West") exercise, to simulate combat situations on land, in the air and at sea, involve up to 12,700 troops, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen claimed last week that the actual number of participants could be as many as 100,000.

Military exercises involving more than 13,000 soldiers require thorough transparency on an international level, according to an agreement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which Russia and most other European states are members.

Russia has assured that the Zapad drills are not preparations for invading the NATO member states of Poland and Lithuania, or even NATO aspirant Ukraine. All three of those states border Belarus.

Poland and the Baltic states, including Lithuania, have been on edge about a potential threat from Russia since that country annexed Ukraine‘s southern Crimea region three years ago.

"The exercise is purely defensive and does not target any country or group of states," the Russian Defence Ministry said Thursday.

Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in nearby Estonia that the alliance would closely monitor the exercises.

"NATO remains calm and vigilant, and committed to keep Estonia and all our allies safe," Stoltenberg said.

While NATO intended to send several observers, "these invitations fall short from the transparency required by the OSCE," Stoltenberg said.

 

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