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.
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.