Tag: Observers

Russian Defense Ministry refutes claims about troops left in Belarus after Zapad-2017

The official representative of the defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov. Vadim Grishanin/press service of the defense Ministry of the Russian Federation/TASS

MOSCOW, September 30. /TASS/.

All the Russian military, who participated in the Zapad-2017 military exercise, returned to the permanent deployment areas, and claims by Ukraine’s Chief of General Staff Viktor Muzhenko are not true to life, spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Saturday.

Earlier, in an interview with Reuters, Muzhenko claimed Russia left troops in Belarus after the Zapad-2017 exercise.
“As for units of the Russian Armed Forces, which participated in the Zapad-2017 joint strategic exercise, they all are back to the permanent deployment areas,” the ministry’s spokesman said, adding Muzhenko’s claims about the Russian troops “hidden” in Belarus, “demonstrate scale of degradation of the Ukrainian General Staff and incompetence of its chief.”

A large-scale exercise Zapad-2017 was held in Russia and Belarus from September 14 to September 20. The drills were held at three proving grounds in Russia and six in Belarus involving 12,700 troops (7,200 Belarussian and 5,500 Russian), about 70 warplanes and helicopters, up to 680 ground vehicles, including about 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and mortars and ten warships. The last train with the Russian military, who participated in the exercise, departed from Belarus on Thursday, September 28.

The main purpose of the exercise was to improve the compatibility of command and control centers, test new documentation and let commanders of all levels practice planning and control of operations on the basis of experience gained in the latest military conflicts.

The drills were monitored by observers from seven states, including NATO members.





Foreign reporters remark upon openness of Belarusian-Russian army exercise Zapad 2017

IVATSEVICHI DISTRICT, 19 September (BelTA) – Foreign reporters, who are accredited to cover the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017, have remarked upon the exercise’s openness, BelTA has learned.

About 50 reporters from Ukraine, Germany, France, the UK, the USA, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia came to the Domanovo army exercise area to cover the second stage of the Zapad 2017 exercise. Nora Thorp Bjornstad from Norway was one of them.

“I think everything is sufficiently open. It is very important. We’ve talked to colleagues from Norway and Sweden. They are satisfied, too,” said the Norwegian reporter.

“We were quite surprised to receive accreditation. We thought it would be quite difficult to achieve. We are glad to be here. People in Belarus are very hospitable,” she noted.

Nora Bjornstad works for a European printed media and does not specialize in military affairs. However, people in Europe are interested in the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017, this is why not coming to observe the exercise would have been a mistake, she noted.

Observers and military attaches from more than 60 states were invited to one of the central episodes of the Zapad-2017 military drills

A mixed unit consisting of one battalion of air defense missile systems S-300 and one battery of air defense missile systems Osa worked together with battlefield air defense units in the Domanovo exercise area on 19 September. In line with the concept of the exercise the mixed unit had to repulse group strikes of the enemy’s air force units, which were simulated by two Mi-8 helicopters and four Yak-130 aircraft. Two Osa air defense missile systems and Igla portable air defense missile systems successfully destroyed the targets. As many as 150 personnel and 45 military and special vehicles were used in this episode of the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017.

The Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017 began on 14 September to end on 20 September. In Belarus the regular army exercise areas Lepelsky, Borisovsky, Losvido, Osipovichsky, and the Air Force exercise areas Ruzhansky and Domanovo are used for the exercise in addition to two regular sectors of terrain in Vitebsk Oblast — Dretun and Glubokoye. In Russia the army exercise areas Luzhsky, Strugi Krasnyye, and Pravdinsky in Kaliningrad Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, and Pskov Oblast are used for the exercise. Some 12,700 military personnel are taking part in the Zapad 2017 exercise.


Estonia to send observers to Zapad drills

TALLINN, Sep 12, BNS – Estonia is to send observers to the Belarusian-Russian joint exercise Zapad 2017, the daily Postimees writes.

Russia has decided to introduce the exercise at a training range in Luga on Sept. 17-18 to defense attaches who have been accredited in Moscow, spokesperson for the Estonian Ministry of Defense Andres Sang said.

Estonia’s defense attache will also participate in the event. Official Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) invitations for observation have not been issued.

Belarus has formally notified the OSCE that Zapad will be held in the territory of Belarus on Sept. 14-20. In addition Belarus has, under the principle of voluntariness of the Vienna document, invited two observers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Ukraine and Sweden each to take part in a program lasting from Sept.16-20.

Estonia has accepted the invitation of Belarus and will send two people to participate in the program. The Ministry of Defense does not have information on the extent of the access that the participants will have to the drills.

Additionally, the Estonian defense attache will participate in a Zapad related program to be organized by the Belarus Ministry of Defense on Sept. 19-21.


US general doesn’t trust Russia’s numbers for Zapad, says media should be invited

General Ben Hodges, Commander, U.S. Army Europe

VILNIUS – The US Army’s commander in Europe on Friday called on Russia to invite media representatives to observe next month’s military exercise Zapad (West), saying that there is not much ground for trusting the numbers given by Moscow about the scale of the drills.

“The Russians had not given us a lot of reason to trust the numbers that they say. But again, the exercise hasn’t happened yet, so we don’t know what they are going to do,” Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said at a joint news conference with Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis in Vilnius.

Moscow says that Zapad 2017 will involve fewer than 13,000 troops, but NATO officials think that the number was artificially reduced by splitting the exercise into separate parts so as not to give wider access to observers, as required by international rules.

The war games will be held in the western part of Russia and its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad and in Belarus between Sept. 14 and 20.

Hodges said that Russia could dispel concerns by inviting journalists to observe the drills the way Western countries do.

“I think this would all be solved and everybody would be relaxed if the Russian Federation invited the media to everything that they do the way that Lithuanian armed forces do, the German armed forces do, that American armed forces do,” the US general said.

“If the Russian Federation is truly interested in stability and security, then be transparent, invite media to see everything that they do. In the West, we have journalists, think-tanks, parliamentarians, civic organizations, they come to every exercise that we do, so that people don’t have to be concerned or worried about what we are actually doing,” Hodges said.

“So what is the risk could be alleviated with transparency. We have Russian inspectors come to our exercises all the time. I’ve had Russians visit me in Germany, Poland, Bulgaria during exercises. I would love to have them follow me around all day just to lower the temperature and to build some confidence,” he said.

The general said that he feels confident in the deterrence capability NATO has created in the region, but added that the Alliance has to remain vigilant.

“But we also have to always remain vigilant, to continue to try to understand what potential adversaries are doing. Of course, the Alliance faces several different types of threats. Being alert is the responsibility for all of our security services,” Hodges said.

“But I don’t have a good record for predicting the future”, he added.

The US has sent extra fighter jets and a company of troops to Lithuania for the period of Zapad, but the US general said that the Alliance’s exercises will be held according to schedule.

Also, some 1,000 troops from different NATO countries were earlier this year deployed to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland each.

Russia and Belarus say that Zapad 2017 will be “purely defensive”. Lithuanian Defense Minister Karoblis said on Friday that “defense may be followed by a counteroffensive and a simulation of an offensive”.


Estonian military to accept invitation of Belarus to attend Zapad

Chief of General Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces Riho Terras

Estonia will accept the invitation by Belarus to send observers to the Zapad military drill to be jointly held by Russian and Belarusian armed forces this September, the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces has stated.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces General Riho Terras has said this week in an interview with Eesti Päevaleht newspaper that Zapad exercises have taken place for decades already, also during the Soviet times.

Terras noted that this summer, Belarus and Russia have already conducted preparatory joint exercises testing communications in July and currently a demonstrative drill is taking place in Pskov, not far from Estonia and Latvia.

«It is important that we know what is going on. (..) That we know in detail what is going on, that we keep track of it and be prepared. But we must also be prepared when exercises aren’t being conducted. I don’t think that anything will occur in the framework of field exercises which could spill over to our side or which we will tangibly be able to see,» ERR cited Terras as evaluating in the interview.