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International observers to be invited to West-2017 drills — Belaruasian Defense Ministry

"We have nothing to hide. Our exercises are purely defensive," Belarusian Defense Minister Lieutenant-General Andrey Ravkov said

MINSK, July 17. /TASS/. International observers, including NATO representatives, will be able to monitor the West-2017 Belarusian-Russian exercises, Belarusian Defense Minister Lieutenant-General Andrey Ravkov said in an interview with TASS.

"Despite the fact that the planned number of troops due to take part in the West-2017 exercises, the number of armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces and aircraft does not reach the threshold for notification, we will invite our partners so that they can see with their own eyes that the drills do not solve the tasks they declare," the minister said.

The minister stressed though that invitations will be sent not only to defense attaches accredited at the country’s Defense Ministry but also to a number of international organizations, such as the UN, OSCE, NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the ICRC.

"We will also fulfill our obligations in terms of regional confidence-and security-building measures. We are waiting for observers from our neighbors - Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Observers from Estonia, Sweden and Norway have been invited as well as part of bilateral agreements," Ravkov said, adding that more than 80 observers will be invited.

"We have nothing to hide. Our exercises are purely defensive," the minister said.

"On the other hand, the level of our troops’ training is such that the display of individual elements of the exercises will only highlight the high combat readiness of regional group of forces and will serve as a warning to some politicians who make unambiguous political statements leading to soaring tensions in the Eastern European collective security region," he noted.

The West-2017 military exercises will be held in September 2017 at six grounds in both Belarus and Russia. Taking part in them will be about 12,700 military personnel, including about 10,200 in Belarus. About 680 units of equipment will be involved in them.