September 12, 2021
Servicemen of the Belarusian army at the opening ceremony of the strategic exercises ‘West-2021’ at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus. © Sputnik / Viktor Tolochko
By RT News
Close to 100,000 Russian and Belarusian soldiers, sailors and airmen are taking part in massive military exercises spanning half the width of Europe and involving hundreds of aircraft, armored vehicles and even missile systems.
In a statement issued on Friday, Moscow’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that the Zapad-2021 drills had begun in earnest, across 14 separate training grounds from the Baltic Sea to Central Russian cities like Voronezh and Nizhny Novgorod.
Troops from former Soviet republics, including Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as personnel from India and Mongolia are taking part. Delegations of officers from China, Pakistan, Vietnam and Myanmar are also understood to be in attendance.
However, Moscow’s military commanders insist that while the exercises involve large numbers of squadrons and military hardware, the quantity of troops involved in any one set of exercises does not exceed 6,400 people, in line with requirements under international law.
The objective of the drills is to demonstrate and test the level of combat readiness of Russian and Belarusian troops to defend the Union State which binds the two nations.
The wargames come amid escalating tensions between the West and Russia, along with Belarus. A number of naval vessels are involved in drills, with warships, missile cruisers and destroyers, as well as submarines, setting out into the Baltic Sea as part of the dry run for potential conflict.