MINSK, September 16. /TASS/. Observers from seven countries have arrived in Belarus to monitor the Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad-2017, the Belarusian Defense Ministry’s Spokesman Vladimir Makarov said on Saturday.
"In the spirit of openness and transparency and on a voluntary basis, Belarus has invited representatives from Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Ukraine, Sweden and Estonia to monitor the joint strategic exercise," Makarov said.
Two representatives from each country arrived in Minsk on Saturday, he said, noting that foreign observers will carry out their work between September 16 and 20.
"The observers’ agenda envisages their visits to training grounds where they will be able to watch practical activities of participants in the joint strategic exercise," he said.
Earlier, Belarus had sent invitations to officials of some international agencies, including NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
A large-scale exercise Zapad-2017 began in Russia and Belarus on Thursday at three proving grounds in Russia and six in Belarus with 12,700 troops (7,200 Belarussian and 5,500 Russian ones taking part). Also involved in the exercise are about 70 planes and helicopters, 680 ground vehicles, including about 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and mortars and ten ships.
The main purpose of the exercise is 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 exercise will last till September 20.