12:24 GMT +313 November 2019
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    Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defense ministry's official spokesman

    Moscow Refutes Berlin's Claim of 100,000 Troops Involved in Zapad-2017 Drills

    © Photo : Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation
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    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Saturday denied German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen's claim of 100,000 Russian troops taking part in upcoming Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2017 drills.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday, at the EU Defense Ministers' meeting in Tallinn, that the drills were about to serve as a demonstration of Russia's power and capabilities, adding that there were more than 100,000 troops involved in the exercise.

    "We are surprised at the statements made by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, public statements about 100,000 Russian troops allegedly involved in Zapad-2017 drills, although it is unclear where that number came from, and some dangers for Europe related to that," Konashenkov told reporters.

    According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, the German side was briefed, fully and in time, on aims and the defensive nature of the drills, as well as on the actual number of Russian troops participating in the exercise. Belarus provided Germany with all relevant information, while Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin briefed the German military attache stationed at the country's embassy in Moscow on August 29.

    Konashenkov also pointed out that Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told NATO Military Committee Chairman Petr Pavel at their meeting in Baku earlier this week about the routine nature of the drills, stressing that they were not aimed against any countries.

    "It is hard to imagine that colleagues of Ursula von der Leyen from NATO, from other relevant German agencies, or her staff are knowingly misinforming the German Defense Minister. It is much easier to imagine the contrary," Konashenkov said.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier that the increasing military presence of NATO in Eastern Europe went unnoticed amid groundless criticism of the Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2017 military exercises.

    Zapad-2017 drills are scheduled to kick off next Thursday in Belarus, as well as at three ranges in Russia, and are to last until September 20. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, up to 12,700 troops will participate in the exercise. A number of NATO member states and Ukraine have expressed concern over the drills.


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    troops, Zapad-2017, Ursula von der Leyen, Igor Konashenkov, Germany, Russia
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