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    Latvia to Send Observers to Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 Drills

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    Latvia will send observers to the Russia-Belarus joint military exercises, slated for September.

    RIGA (Sputnik) – Latvia will send three observers to the Russia-Belarus joint military exercises dubbed Zapad-2017 ("West-2017"), slated for September 14-20, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

    "Latvia has received an invitation for two observers from Belarus, whereas Russia invited Latvia’s military attache in Moscow to attend the drills," the ministry said.

    The ministry also expressed hope that the observers would be able to receive adequate and full information on the military exercises.

    The plans to hold drills prompted concern from a number of states, including Latvia' neighbor Lithuania, which made a defense report on the drill’s threats to the country's national security in April. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the report by calling it the result of a foreign-imposed "hysterical Russophobia" that undermines the interests of Lithuania's own population. In turn, Belarus has dismissed claims about the Zapad-2017 drills as speculation.

    On July 19, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said he had no questions left without answers with regard to the upcoming Zapad-2017 drills after the meeting with Belarus counterpart Vladimir Makei.

    The Zapad-2017 military drills are expected to involve around 3,000 Russian troops, 280 pieces of hardware and up to 25 Russian aircraft, according to Belarusian Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov. The exercise grounds will stretch from the Kola Peninsula in Russia's far northwest to Belarus.

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