Russia, Belarus launch joint military exercise amid tensions with West

Russia launches Zapad war games

Military threat to Russian Federation from Belarus, where the exercises "West-2017", is expected after the completion of the maneuvers, said the President of Lithuania.

The West 2017 drills, which will proceed until September 20, are purely defensive in nature and are not directed against any state or groups of states, the ministry statement said.

Russia holds large-scale exercises are held every four years - since 1999 - and rotate through four operational strategic commands of the Russian Armed Forces (Western, Eastern, Caucus and Central).

"We are anxious about this is an open preparation for war with the West", Grybauskaite told reporters. This was stated by President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite.

However, NATO officials say the number of troops is much larger than Moscow has publicised, closer to 100,000.

A shipment of US military equipment has been unloaded at a Baltic Sea port in Poland as Russian Federation prepares to conduct war games across the border in Belarus.

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The exercises began Thursday night with units simulating hunting down and destroying reconnaissance agents belonging to illegal armed groups, according to Oleg Belokonev, the Belarusian Deputy Defense Minister. Maybe neither side. After four years of Cold War-style standoff between Russian Federation and the West, sparked by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, the trust gap between the two sides is huge.

Moscow has held a stream of exercises since ties with the West plunged in 2014 over Ukraine, with the military claiming some drills included almost 100,000 troops. NATO's chief Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC that Russian Federation has a history of using "big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbors". "The exercise is absolutely peaceful, and absolutely defensive in nature", Fomin told Germany's Deutsche Welle news service.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stepped up security on his country's border with Belarus, warning that the Zapad (West) 2017 exercises could be a prelude to an invasion.

There is also unease in Kiev, and Ukraine is now conducting its own military exercises.

"The last thing we want is a military escalation with Russian Federation", said one senior North Atlantic Treaty Organisation official involved in military planning, referring to Zapad. "The danger of incidents or accidents has increased because there are more troops, more military forces along our borders, there are more exercises, and that's exactly why we are so focused on transparency, predictability", NATO's chief added. In addition, according to military analysts, Belarus acts as the ally of the aggressor country.

The exercises involve up to 12,700 servicemen, including around 7,200 from Belarus and some 5,500 Russian troops, of whom up to 3,000 will take part in maneuvers in Belarusian territory. "They say, 'We're just doing an exercise, ' and then all of a sudden they've moved all these people and capabilities somewhere".

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