Kremlin accuses West of "whipping up hysteria" over Russian war games

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2017 maneuvers, which are mainly taking place in Belarus this year, have caused concern among members of the Western military alliance and in neighboring countries.

Since the two nations split after the break up of the Soviet Union, Belarus has struggled to maintain its sovereignty and independence in Russia's shadow, and some Western observers have warned that the Russian troops who come to Belarus for the Zapad games may wind up occupying it. Russian military officials have said up to 70 aircraft and about 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems and 10 navy ships will also be involved.

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas inflated the numbers to as many as 100,000 Russian soldiers, supposedly to be mobilized during the exercise - a belief which has also been voiced by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Even so, he adds, the opposition in Belarus is anxious that the exercises "could be a Trojan Horse for bringing in Russian troops and equipment, and that they simply won't leave afterwards". "And we've seen before, Russian Federation using military exercises as a disguise for aggressive actions against other countries; that was the case in 2008 and that was the case in 2014 when they annexed Crimea", Stoltenberg said.

The operation was launched in April 2014 following the reunification of the Crimean Republic with Russian Federation following a referendum, which the United States and other Western countries refer to as an "annexation".

Jens Stoltenberg, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general, also warned that Russia's lack of transparency "increases the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculations, accidents and incidents that can become dangerous". The exercises are held every two years alternately on the territory of Belarus and Russian Federation, the report says.




Belarus is mobilising about 7,200 troops and Russian Federation about 5,500, Russia's defence ministry says. In addition, according to military analysts, Belarus acts as the ally of the aggressor country. If, in the aftermath of the exercise, Moscow opts to make these additional military installations permanent, the overall strategic equation along NATO's Eastern flank will be further undermined.

"The degree of mobilization is really impressive", Soloch said on private Radio Zet.

"We reject complaints of these exercises not being transparent", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

"Ukraine was attacked shortly after the Zapad 2013 exercises, and a few years earlier there was the attack on Georgia, also after large military manoeuvres", Poland Deputy Defence Minister Michal Dworczyk told the Polish PAP news agency. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that Zapad 2017 appears to be a "preparation for an offensive war on a continental scale".

"We believe that the wave of hysteria around these exercises is absolutely provocative, as it is a common practice, it is the right of any country and the usual practice of carrying out such exercises".

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