Some military branches started the maneuvers before the official date.
Today the joint seven-day exercises of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia West-2017 started in Belarus.
The official aim of the exercises is to practice coordinated actions of various military branches to ensure the military security of the "union state".
Number of participants
According to official figures, up to 12,700 servicemen will take part in the exercises, about 10,000 men will be deployed on the Belarusian territory. About 3,000 of them are from Russia. It is planned to use 370 units of armored vehicles in maneuvers, including 140 tanks, up to 150 artillery units, more than 40 aircraft and helicopters.
International analysts state that in fact more than 100,000 military from Russia and Belarus will participate in the joint maneuvers.
The venue for the exercises
The exercises will involve a number of military training ranges in Belarus: near Lepel, Barysau, Vitsebsk, Asipovichy, Ruzhany and Damanava. It is also reported that some raids are planned on the "sector of the terrain" near Dretun.
Local authorities asked residents of Ivatsevichy not to go to the forest for the duration of the exercises, and the residents of Pruzhany – to look for people in camouflage.
The scenario of the exercises
According to the scenario, the opponents are provisionally located within the borders of Belarus. The "Northern" (Russia and Belarus) are on the one side and the "Western" are on the other one. This is a coalition of interested states Veisnaryja, Viasbaryja, Lubeniya. The notional state of Veisnaryja is located in the northwestern part of the real territory of Belarus. The situation, according to the scenario, is exacerbated by the desire to "destabilize the situation on the territory of the republic" and to deteriorate the relations between Russia and Belarus.
Belarus has its own role: it seeks to prevent the unleashing of an armed conflict, destabilization of the situation in the region, and Russia provides political support, financial, military-technical and military assistance to it.
What the neighbors think about the teachings
Almost all the neighboring countries have been expressing their concern about the exercises for several months. The heads of state, politicians and experts of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine believe that Russia can use the West-2017 exercises to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine, train for a big war with NATO, and also that Russian soldiers or the military equipment might stay in Belarus after the exercises.
A lot of people in Belarus are sure that the exercises are just an excuse for a "soft occupation", and that Russia will not remove its troops.
The Prevention Rally demanding the cancellation of the exercises West-2017 took place at Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk on September 8.