MINSK, September 1. /TASS/. The Zapad-2021 (West-2021) joint Russia-Belarus strategic drills will be solely defensive in nature and the West’s concerns over the upcoming maneuvers are unfounded, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told reporters on Wednesday.
"We are not going to attack anyone. It’s not necessary. This has caused anxiety [in the West]. Perhaps, they are very much concerned that we would allegedly almost cut off the Baltic region: that we would allegedly advance along the Suwalki corridor to Kaliningrad and cut off the Baltics. No one needs this Baltic region. Hopefully, we should populate our own Belarus, to say nothing of Russia," the Belarusian presidential press office quoted Lukashenko as saying.
The Belarusian and Russian armed forces are based on similar principles, Lukashenko pointed out. "But still there must be cohesion. That is why we must learn to operate together. Because we will have to fight together. Since we have the army, the armed forces, we need to train them and somehow integrate them," the Belarusian leader said, explaining the goals of the upcoming drills.
The upcoming strategic drills will involve troops on a large scale, Lukashenko stressed. "We have agreed with [President of Russia Vladimir] Putin that I will take charge of the basic part of the drills that will run on Belarusian territory. The drills will involve several training grounds, up to ten practice ranges. He [Russian President Vladimir Putin] will be present at a training ground in his country and I will do this on the territory of my country. And we will see how much our armed forces, the troops of Russia and Belarus are ready and have cohesion," the Belarusian leader said.
"We have the joint air defense system and common defense policy. We have an army that has to be trained. This is why we are holding this exercise," Lukashenko said.
The Belarusian president said that he had already "lived through a lot of such exercises."
"That is why I know this matter from the inside. We are holding the drills to train our armed forces to be prepared just in case. Meanwhile, there are a lot of alarming moments," he said.
In particular, the Belarusian leader recalled that last year the republic had been forced to put almost half of the army on high alert and move it to the western frontiers.
"Therefore, there are more than enough grounds," Lukashenko stressed.
The Belarusian leader said he saw no obstacles for organizing the arrival of international observers to monitor the Zapad-2021 strategic drills. "Let them observe them," the Belarusian leader said.
Zapad-2021 Russia-Belarus strategic drills
The Zapad-2021 strategic drills will run on September 10-16 at proving grounds in Russia and Belarus. On Russian soil, about 400 Belarusian military personnel and over 30 combat vehicles will participate in the maneuvers. The strategic exercise on the territory of Belarus will engage around 12,800 troops, including about 2,500 Russian military personnel and up to 50 Kazakh servicemen from the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) Collective Operational Response Forces.
According to the data of the Belarusian Defense Ministry, the Zapad-2021 strategic maneuvers will involve up to 350 items of military hardware, including about 140 tanks, around 110 artillery systems and multiple rocket launchers and over 30 aircraft and helicopters.
The 230th Obuz-Lesnovsky combined arms training ground, the 174th Domanovsky Air Force and Air Defense Force practice range, the 210th Ruzhansky aviation range and the Brestsky training ground will be used to practice assignments on the territory of Belarus.
After the completion of the drills, the personnel of the two countries will return to their permanent stations with armaments, military and special hardware by September 30.