Russian soldiers start to arrive in Belarus to participate in Zapad 2017 exercises
Personnel from the Russian Armed Forces have begun to arrive in Belarus in order to participate in special exercises in anticipation of the Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2017 maneuvers, the Belarusian Defense Ministry reported.
“Since July 23, logistic support divisions from the Western Military District of the Russian Armed Forces have been arriving to participate in special joint exercises,” the Belarusian Defense Ministry noted.
The Belarusian and Russian soldiers will have to jointly prepare command centers and resources which will ensure the control over the joint formations of troops, military units and will carry out the organization of the logistic support of both countries’ armed forces, and also equip the regions for the forthcoming exercises.
The Zapad 2017 Russian-Belarusian joint exercises are supposed to take place between September 14 and 20 in Belarusian territory. There are plans for the exercises to involve as many as 12,700 military personnel, including nearly 3,000 from the Russian Armed Forces, as well as up to 680 items of military equipment. This is the largest joint operational training event of Russia and Belarus.
For comparison, the Ukrainian-American Sea Breeze 2017 exercises which ended on July 22 involved roughly 3,500 soldiers from all the participating countries, as well as roughly 150 units of automotive, armored vehicle, aviation and naval equipment.
Ukraine and other neighbors of Belarus expressed their concern over Zapad 2017 exercises. Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said on July 21 that they will be extremely powerful and could potentially become the basis of a Russian invasion not only into Ukraine, but also into other European countries. However, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who visited Ukraine on the same day, guaranteed that the territory of the “friendly republic of Belarus” would “never be used for aggressive actions against Ukraine”.