“Immense” Russian – Belarusian military exercise (possibly focused on neutralizing an ethnic unrest) taking place in eastern Europe

Named Zapad-2013, an exercise whose aims to strenghten the regional safety and relations between Belarus and Russia is taking place between Sept. 20 and 26 in Eastern Europe. The scale of the exercise is immense, as it is spans across 6 ranges in Belarus and in the Kaliningrad Oblast; 12,900 troops, out of which 2,500 from Russia, are attending the drills, with 70 tanks and over 50 airplanes and helicopters, including Belarusian UAVs, along with Russia’s Baltic fleet as well as transport vessels from Northern Fleet and Black Sea Fleet.

The representatives of the Russian command said that no NATO officials will be invited to observe the exercise commanded by the Belarusian Minister of Defence and the chief of the Russian command.

Some analysts suggest that the scenario of the exercise will be somehow provocative, similarily to Zapad-2009. That scenario included neutralizing of the uprising by the Polish minority on the Belarusian ground. It is quite important for such exercise to be transparent, and for the outside observers to be invited and given an opportunity to have an eye on the exercise, said Radosław Sikorski, head of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Some sources claim that Zapad-2013 is to be focused on ethnic unrest in the Baltic states, officially its aim is to evaluate whether Belarus and Russia are able to defend the border and to conduct search activity against the special operations and illegal military groups.

What is more, the exercise will check the air defense capabilities of core weapons systems, including MLRS  (Multiple Launch Rocket System) and artillery.

Belarusian Minister of Defense Zhadobin claims that the event is an opportunity to assess whether the common defense system of Russia and Belarus works.

Russian Su-27SM3 fighters will be stationed in Lida to enhance Belarus airspace defence capabilities. Belarusian Air Force has recently withdrawn from service its Su-27 Flanker and Su-24 Fencer (some of those were sold to Sudan).

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image credit: Õhuvägi via Eesti Päevaleht

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About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.