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Russia, Belarus to hold Union Shield drills far away from EU borders — top brass

The decision is taken to avoid the escalation of tension in Europe

MINSK, August 14. /TASS/. Russia and Belarus will hold their Union Shield 2019 military exercise deep inside Russia’s territory and far away from the EU borders, Chief of the Belarusian General Staff, First Deputy Defense Minister Major-General Oleg Belokonev said on Wednesday.

"Although NATO’s Allied Forces have boosted the number of military drills in Eastern Europe near the borders of the [Russia-Belarus] Union State, the Union Shield 2019 joint drills will take place deep inside the territory of the Russian Federation and not at practice ranges near the borders," the chief of the Belarusian General Staff told a press briefing on the upcoming maneuvers.

This decision was taken to avoid the escalation of tension in Europe, he stressed.

"This has been done on purpose, in order to avoid the escalation of the situation in Europe, which once again confirms the desire of Belarus and Russia to reduce tensions in the region," he pointed out.

The upcoming Union Shield 2019 operational exercise will conclude the two-year cycle of the joint training of the Russian and Belarusian troops and is of planned nature, the chief of Belarus’ General Staff said.

In accordance with the decision by the heads of the two states, the drills are held once every two years alternately on the territory of Russia and Belarus, the general stated.

The exercise’s scenario takes into account the analysis of possible threats to the Union State and the risks of an armed conflict, he pointed out.

"Practice shows that, as a rule, everything begins from operations by terrorists, separatists or illegal armed formations that get external support of third forces. Precisely this scenario will be used during the upcoming exercise," the Belarusian general stressed.

Union Shield 2019 exercise

The numerical strength of the troops and military hardware that will be involved in the upcoming military exercise "does not exceed the level that has to be observed in compliance with various arms control treaties," the general said.

"The Union Shield 2019 exercise is set to involve about 12,000 troops, up to 950 weapon systems, and also up to 70 aircraft and helicopters, about which the Russian side has timely notified the OSCE member states under the 2011 Vienna document," he reported.

Belarus will use over 4,000 personnel, more than 30 tanks, 80 armored combat vehicles, about 50 multiple launch rocket systems, guns and mortars, as well as around 15 aircraft and helicopters at the joint maneuvers in Russia, he noted.

The troops will be accomplishing a wide range of assignments during the joint drills — from providing cover for the state border and fighting illegal armed formations to conducting defensive operations and stabilizing the situation, the Belarusian general said.

Before the Union Shield 2019 drills kick off, special tactical exercises will have to be held for engineering units from the Russian and Belarusian armies, along with an instructional methods exercise with the commanding and directing staff and a general instructional exercise, he added.

The Union Shield 2019 operational exercise will take place at the Mulino range in the Nizhny Novgorod Region on September 13-19.