Putin arrives at the Zapad 2017 war games which triggered wave of hysteria in the West

Monday, September 18, 2017
By Paul Martin

18 Sep, 2017

Russian President Putin is touring a Leningrad region military range where Belarusian troops are being hosted for the Zapad 2017 drills – criticized by some neighboring countries despite Moscow and Minsk’s transparency and invitations given to observers.

The exercises began last week at several locations in Russia and Belarus and will be conducted until Wednesday. Russia sent around 3,000 troops to neighboring Belarus, where they are training at six locations along with 7,000 soldiers and officers of the host nation. Russia welcomed Belarusian troops at three sites, including the Luzhsky range in Leningrad region.

Less than 13,000 troops are taking part in the exercise in total, according to figures from the defense ministries of Russia and Belarus. Around 70 aircraft, 680 armored vehicles, including 250 tanks, 200 artillery guns, and 10 warships have been deployed by the two nations.

The two nations are working on coordination and interoperability of its troops in joint operations. Both stressed that the drill is meant to be purely defensive. They also invited some 90 foreign observers from 60 countries to monitor the exercise.

The stage of the war games that Putin observed on Monday included a simulated cross-border incursion of insurgents who, according to the scenario, hijacked a large number of small planes and drones and tried to use them to attack targets in Russia. Russian and Belarusian troops used Pantsir-S1 and Tunguska air defense systems to take out the improvised enemy air attack. Tanks supported by artillery and aircraft launched an attack on the hundreds-strong groups of militants while a group of airdropped paratroopers prevented them from retreating.

War games such as Zapad 2017 are conducted by Russia and Belarus on a regular basis, and the ongoing exercise is among the bigger events. In the months prior to the launch of the drills, several countries, including Poland and the three Baltic states, were strongly critical, calling them a threat to their national security.

Officials in the countries claimed that Russia would send more troops to Belarus than it said it would and that the entire event may be a cover-up for a land grab.

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