MOSCOW, September 14. /TASS/. Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Gen Valery Gerassimov, and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen Curtis Scaparrotti, had a telephone conversation on Thursday at Scaparotti's initiative, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
"The conversation became a logical extension of a recent meeting between Gen Gerassimov and Gen Petr Pavel, the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee," the report said. "Gen Gerassimov informed Gen Scaparrotti on the start of Zapad 2017 joint strategic exercise, making accent on the scheduled and exclusively defensive character of the exercise."
The two generals agreed to maintain contacts in the future.
As reported earlier, Gen Gerassimov had a meeting with Gen Petr Pavel in Baku on September 7. The two top military commanders exchanged opinions on the situation in international security in Europe and in the Middle East.
Regarding Zapad 2017, Gen Gerassimov reaffirmed that it was not targeted against any third parties.
The large-scale exercise began on Thursday on the territories of Russia and Belarus simultaneously. The tactical episodes involve field firing, as well as the combat employment of aircraft and antiaircraft units on three drill ranges in Russia (Luga in the Leningrad region, Strugi Krasnye in the Pskov region, and Pravdinsk in the Kaliningrad region), six drill ranges in Belarus (Lepel, Losvido, Borisov, Osipovichi, Ruzhany, and Domanovsky) and on a space of terrain near the village of Dretun in the Minsk region.
Engaged in the maneuvers are up to 12,700 men and officers. Belarus, the host country, has committed about 7,200 men and officers and Russia, about 5,500. Assigned to the exercise are about 70 aircraft and helicopters, up to 680 combat vehicles, including 250 or so tanks, up to 200 artillery guns, salvo systems and mortars, and ten naval ships.
The main objective of Zapad 2017 is to improve the operational compatibility of staffs of various levels, to synchronize the prospective systems of control over the troops and armaments, to test the new field manuals, and to fill the officers in on the practice of planning of military actions and armed units control on the basis of experience gained in the current military conflicts.
The exercise will continue through to September 20.