02:18 GMT +323 January 2020
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    According to a Russian deputy defense minister, the Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 military drills are defensive and will include practicing the fight against terrorists.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 military exercises are defensive in nature and will include practicing the fight against terrorists receiving help from abroad, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin said Tuesday.

    "In conclusion, I shall stress that the Zapad-2017 drills, apart from a counter-terror orientation, are purely defensive in nature," Fomin told a briefing.

    Zapad-2017 is a joint strategic exercise of the Russian and Belarusian armed forces scheduled for September 14-20.

    The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that it will organize press tours that will allow Russian and foreign journalists to attend the most exciting parts of the forthcoming Russia-Belarus joint military exercise Zapad-2017 ("West-2017").

    Nearly 13,000 servicemen and almost 700 pieces of equipment will take part in the Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 military drills, which corresponds to international agreements, Fomin said.

    "About 12,700 servicemen are planned to take part in the exercise (about 7,200 people from the Belarus Armed Forces, about 5,500 people from the Russian Armed Forces, including about 3,000 [Russian troops] on the territory of Belarus), about 70 planes and helicopters, up to 680 units of military equipment, including about 250 tanks, up to 200 guns, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and 10 ships," he said.

    The Russian Defense Ministry said that it would organize press tours that will allow Russian and foreign journalists to attend the most exciting parts of the drills.

    Media claims that the Zapad 2017 military drills are preparing a "bridgehead for the occupation" of Lithuania, Poland or Ukraine, have nothing to do with reality, Fomin, said.

    "For several months, the world's biggest media (and, after them, politicians) are stirring up public opinion, spreading myths about the 'Russian threat'. Some of the most improbable scenarios for the development of events are assumed, some claiming that the Zapad 2017 drills are preparing a 'springboard for invasion' and 'occupation' of Lithuania, Poland or Ukraine," Fomin said.

    "None of these paradoxical versions has anything to do with reality, which has already been repeatedly confirmed by both Russian and Belarusian officials," he said.

    Western states have repeatedly raised concerns with regard to the forthcoming joint drills. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia and Belarus to ensure the transparency of the drills in compliance with international agreements.

    Later, Stoltenberg said that the alliance did not see any imminent threat posed against any NATO member by the drills, however, the Baltic states and Poland again resorted to citing the alleged threat from Russia and voiced concern over the drills.



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