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International Observers To Be Invited to Russia-Belarus Zapad 2017 Exercise To Counter False Claims

July 18, 2017 (EIRNS)—Belarusian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Andrey Ravkov told TASS yesterday that international observers are being invited to the joint Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2017 exercise set for mid-September 2017.

"Despite the fact that the planned number of troops due to take part in the West-2017 exercises, the number of armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces and aircraft does not reach the threshold for notification, we will invite our partners so that they can see with their own eyes that the drills do not solve the tasks they declare,"

Ravkov said, in reference to claims made in some NATO capitals that the exercise will number as many as 100,000 troops or is a cover for provocations against the Baltic states. Ravkov stressed though that invitations will be sent not only to defense attachés accredited to the country's Defense Ministry but also to a number of international organizations, such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"We will also fulfill our obligations in terms of regional confidence-and security-building measures. We are waiting for observers from our neighbors—Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Observers from Estonia, Sweden and Norway have been invited as well as part of bilateral agreements,"

Ravkov said, and that more than 80 observers will be invited. "We have nothing to hide. Our exercises are purely defensive," the minister said.

Ravkov reported that the total number of troops involved will be over 10,000.

"Up to 12,700 servicemen are planned to be involved in the drills. About 10,200 troops will be involved on the territory of our country, including 7,200 servicemen from the Belarusian Armed Forces and about 3,000 from the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,"

he said. Ravkov stressed that

"this exercise is not a response to the buildup of NATO's military component near the borderas of our states, although these actions cause natural concern of the leadership of the Union State."