MOSCOW, March 11 (RIA Novosti) – This week the Russian Defense Ministry will start preparing for large-scale joint strategic military exercises with Belarus, scheduled for fall of 2013, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.
“Strategic command and staff drills, to be held by [Russian] military districts this week, mark the first step in preparation for the Zapad-2013 exercises with Belarus,” Shoigu said at a Defense Ministry meeting.
Russia and Belarus approved the schedule for Zapad-2013 drills in October last year.
The exercises will be held in September and will focus on practicing defense of the Russia-Belarus Union State in response to the deployment of a US missile shield in Europe.
The two-stage drills, which will also involve “rapid-reaction” units from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), will take place in Russia and Belarus.
Moscow and Minsk held similar large-scale military exercises in September 2009. They involved about 12,500 servicemen and up to 200 pieces of military hardware.