KIEV (Sputnik) — Ukraine has taken steps to enhance security along its border with Belarus due to the upcoming Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 ("West-2017") military drills, a press service of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said on Monday.
"Since the beginning of September, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine has enhanced security measures along all the border areas. This is due to the Russia-Belarus joint military exercise Zapad-2017, which will be held on September 14-20," the statement read.
According to Kiev's statement, the border guards will defend locations along the border against "possible provocative actions and military interventions," engaging the country's military, police forces, as well as the National Guard.
In their turn, senior Russian and Belarusian officials reiterated that the drills do not pose any threat to other states and are exclusively defensive in nature. Moreover, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko stated earlier that these exercises would be open for foreign observers. The Defense Ministry of Belarus reported in August that observers from seven countries — Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Norway — were invited to the event.
Moscow has repeatedly criticized the increased presence of the alliance’s troops and military facilities near the Russian border. Moscow has said Russia had never planned and does not plan to attack any NATO member.
The joint military drills are scheduled for September 14-20. The exercises will stretch from the Kola Peninsula in Russia's far northwest all the way down to Belarus. About 12,700 servicemen (including 5,500 Russians), some 70 planes and helicopters, and up to 680 units of military equipment will be involved in the drills.