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Russian top brass taken aback at German defense chief's remark about West-2017

Russian military will be involved in the Russia-Belarus West-2017 exercise

MOSCOW, September 9. /TASS/. The Russian Defense Ministry is surprised at the statement made by German's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen claiming 100,000 Russian military will be involved in the Russia-Belarus West-2017 exercise, spokesman of the Russian authority Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.

"We are surprised at the statement, made by the German defense minister, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, as she quoted the unreasonable figures concerning claimed 100,000 Russian military to be involved in the West-2017 exercise and about consequent threats to Europe," the spokesman said. "The German side was notified and it has received all the exhaustive information about the plot, defense character and real numbers of the Russian military involved in the West-2017 exercise."

According to the spokesman, the German side has received detailed information both by the Belarussian side and directly to the German embassy’s military attache in Moscow during a special briefing on August 29 by Russia’s Deputy Defense Ministry Alexander Fomin in the presence of hundreds of foreign reporters.

"Moreover, Russia’s Head of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov only the day before yesterday in Baku during a meeting with head of NATO’s Military Committee informed additionally General Petr Pavel about the Zapad-2017 exercise, stressing it is a planned action and it is not aimed against third countries," the Defense Ministry’s spokesman said. "It is difficult to imagine that colleagues of Ms. Ursula von der Layen at NATO, or from other involved German authorities or her office deliberately mislead the German defense minister."

"It is much easier to suppose the opposite," he added.

Earlier, Germany’s military spokesman Jens Flosdorff in a comment on the statement by Minister Ursula von der Layen about the number of personnel involved in the Zapad-2017 exercise said those were estimations of NATO’s experts.

Zapad-2017 exercise

The joint strategic exercise Zapad-2017 is scheduled for September 14-20. Six proving grounds in Russia and Belarus will be used. It is expected that 12,700 troops will take part (about 10,200 in Belarus) and 680 pieces of military equipment.

The Belarussian Defense Ministry has dispatched invitations to monitors from seven countries and a number of international organizations, including NATO, CSTO, CIS, UN and OSCE. Russia, too, has invited senior officials from a number of foreign defense ministries to see the final phase of the exercise.