Western concerns over Russia-Belarus military drills
Seven days of joint Russia-Belarus military exercises have ended amid a warning from the Lithuanian president that the drills could be used as a pretext for an attack on the West.
Dalia Grybauskaitė made the claim during her address to the UN General Assembly on Monday (September 19).
The drills involved 12,700 personnel, according to Russia, as well as aircraft, tanks, rocket systems and other equipment.
“As we speak around 100,000 Russian troops are engaged in offensive military exercises named Zapad 2017,” Grybauskaitė said.
“The Kremlin is rehearsing aggressive scenarios against its neighbours, training its army to attack the West.”
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters she might change her opinion when she sees information from international observers, including from NATO member states, who monitored the drills.
Meanwhile the Belarusian president addressed concerns that Russia could use Belarus to prepare a possible attack against Ukraine or countries in the Balkans.
“The attempt to discredit the Belarusian-Russian military exercise was extremely unprofessional,” said Alexander Lukashenko. Let’s wait until all the troops of Russia and Belarus return to the places of permanent deployment and see what they [European politicians] will say then.”
The Zapad-2017 military exercises took place across six training ranges in Belarus and three in Russia.