News 14 september — 14:12

Russia, Belarus Kick Off Military Exercises Amid Tensions With West

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Russia and neighboring Belarus have begun a joint military exercise near NATO's eastern flank that has fanned already deep tensions between Moscow and the West, RFE/RL reports.

Moscow and Minsk say the Zapad (West) 2017 exercise, scheduled from September 14 to 20 in Belarus and parts of western Russia, is officially set to involve 12,700 troops.

But Western officials have said the maneuvers could include some 100,000 personnel in what they call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

"This is designed to provoke us, it's designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on September 10.

Russia, meanwhile, has pushed back against what it portrays as Western alarmism over the drills, the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member states since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

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