Zapad 2017 drills begin in Russia and Belarus
The Zapad (West) 2017 joint strategic exercises of the Armed Forces of the Russia-Belarus Union State have been launched in these two countries, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement shared with Interfax-AVN on Thursday.
"The Zapad 2017 joint strategic exercises are being supervised by the Chiefs of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus and represent the final stage of joint training of the two states' Armed Forces," the statement said.
The maneuvers "are of a purely defensive nature and are not directed against any states or groups of countries," it said.
The main goals of the drills are to "update the operational compatibility of headquarters at different levels, promote the interoperability of prospective forces and weapons control systems, test new charter documents, and allow commanders of all ranks to practice planning events of a military nature and commanding forces on the basis of modern armed-conflict experience," the statement said.
"The chiefs of military command centers and the commanders of forces, formations, and military units involved in the drills have received directives from the General Staffs of the Union State's Armed Forces pertaining to the fulfillment of combat training tasks," it said.
During the maneuvers, "Russian and Belarusian military command centers and armed forces units will practice joint efforts to arrange cooperation and comprehensive support in order to achieve the objects set for regional groups of forces," the statement said.
The participants in the drills will simulate tactical operations involving live-fire exercises and the wide use of air force and air defense force personnel and hardware at six training ranges in Belarus - Lepel, Losvido, Borisov, Osipovichi, Ruzhany, Domanovo, and also parts of the Dretun area - and also at three training ranges in Russia - Luga, Strugi Krasnye, and Pravdinsk.
A series of command- and staff-training sessions and drills have been held this year to prepare the military command centers of the Union State for the Zapad 2017 maneuvers, the press service said. Steps to draw up a scenario for the drills took account of modern approaches to the application of forces on the basis of modern armed-conflict experience as well as joint measures of the Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces' operational training, the statement said.
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.
"Up to 70 airplanes and helicopters and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including some 250 tanks, up to 200 weapons, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars, and up to ten combat ships" are also participating in the drills, the statement said.
Inspired by current events in countries of the Middle East and Europe, the scenario for the drills is based on such a situation, in which a crisis erupts and a conflict escalates because of the growing activities of an illegal armed unit and international separatist and terrorist organizations backed from abroad.
The Zapad 2017 scenario simulates a situation in which the opposing sides are located within the actual borders of Belarus: on one side, "the Northern," which include the Belarus-Russia Union State, and on the other side "the Western," which represent a coalition of interested states such as Veishnoriya, Vesbariya and Lubeniya. The imaginary state of Veishnoriya is situated to the north-west of Belarus's actual territory.
The main reason for this escalation is the intention to destabilize the situation in the country and cause relations between the parts of the Union State to worsen.
Following from the scenario, the theme of the drills has been defined as conducting preparations and using a group of forces to maintain the Union State's military security.
The drills are expected to include two stages. During the first stage, the regional group of forces' joint command will complete preparations for the group of forces' combat operation to seal off districts where the simulated adversary's illegal armed formations and sabotage and reconnaissance groups are active, increase the air force and air defense force group in order to protect key government and military facilities, prepare to repel possible aggression, and also practice steps to arrange interaction and comprehensive support.
The second stage of the maneuvers is expected to deal with issues of the forces' command during military action to repel simulated aggression against the Union State amid a rapidly changing situation and organization of cooperation and comprehensive support as part of efforts to complete objectives.