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Russia, Belarus to conduct Union Shield-2006 exercise in June

MINSK, June 15 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus will host a joint large-scale military exercise with Russia on June 17-25, to be attended by the leaders of a regional security bloc's member states, a Belarusian Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

The Union Shield-2006 command and staff exercises will involve a total of 8,800 servicemen, of which about 7,000 will represent Belarus, the spokesman said.

He said the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) countries (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) were expected to attend the exercise, which will be conducted within the framework of the organization.

Military observers from over 40 countries will be invited to attend the exercise, the spokesman said.

Russia's 1,800-strong force will include units of the 20th Army of the Moscow Military District, alongside air force and air defense units. Russia is set to deploy strategic bombers, Su-24M Fencer tactical bombers, Su-27SM Flanker fighters, two new Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters and a modernized A-50 Mainstay AWACS plane.

The exercise will also involve 40 tanks, 180 armored infantry carriers, 140 anti-tank guided missiles, and 30 multiple launch rocket systems.

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