MOSCOW, 29 August (BelTA) – The joint strategic Belarusian-Russian exercise Zapad 2017 is purely defensive, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said at a press briefing for foreign military attaches and reporters, BelTA has learned.
"I stress that Zapad 2017 exercise, besides its anti-terrorist goals, is purely defensive," Alexander Fomin said. Although the drill is mostly conducted on the territory of Belarus, participants of the drill deal with a simulated adversary which has no relation to a particular region, he said. "According to our assessments, the situation envisaged by the scenario of the exercise may erupt in any region of the world," Alexander Fomin explained.
Russia's deputy defense minister noted that even before the start of the Zapad 2017 exercise, it has become a subject to scrutiny of foreign colleagues and media despite its scheduled nature.
"For several months now, major world media outlets and politicians have been stirring public opinion, spreading myths about ‘a Russian threat.' Some are saying that a ‘bridgehead for intervention' and ‘invasion' of Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine is being planned during the exercise. None of these paradoxical versions has anything to do with reality, which has been confirmed on many occasions both by officials of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus," Alexander Fomin said.
According to him, over the past years the armed forces of Russia and Belarus have undertaken some changes both in the organization of combat and operational training and in troops control. “You can check the effectiveness of such changes only during exercises,” he said.
Alexander Fomin recalled that the practical stage of the preparation for the exercise was launched in March when Moscow hosted the strategic command post training of the central military control bodies of the Russian Armed Forces. After that, the joint command of the regional military group held the command post training in Minsk. In May and July, chiefs of staffs conducted reconnaissance of the exercise locations. Command post exercise on control of aviation and air defense troops involving operational group of the Belarusian Armed Forces took place at the Western strategic direction in July. In August, the command post training and several exercises on all types of support of joint actions took place in the Western military district.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Zapad 2017 joint military drills will feature about 12,700 servicemen (more than 7,200 from Belarus and about 5,500 from Russia, including over 3,000 servicemen deployed in Belarus), about 70 aircraft and helicopters, up to 680 pieces of military hardware including about 250 tanks, up to 200 guns, MLRSs and mortars as well as 10 warships.
“The total number of troops and military equipment, including tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, mortar launchers, multiple launch rocket systems, does not exceed the level subject to mandatory monitoring of certain military activities, as it is stipulated by the 2011 Vienna Convention,” Alexander Fomin said.
He added that with a view to ensure increased transparency Russia, acting on its own initiative, has invited representatives of the defense ministries and military and diplomatic corps of other countries to attend the final stage of the exercise at the Luzhsky range in Leningrad Oblast.