Exercise in intimidation
Russia is planning to conduct the massive Zapad 2017 military exercises in Belarus from Sept. 14 through Sept. 20, with up to 13,000 troops.
According to the scenario of the exercises, fictional “Western” countries are expected to occupy northwestern Belarus and create the state of “Viejsnoryja” there – a name that is already an ironic Internet meme.
But it’s no laughing matter. Russia may use the exercises to make Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko more pliable, and intimidate neighboring countries. There are fears that it could organize a provocation on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has also initiated legislation to deploy Russian anti-aircraft weapons on Belarus’ border with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian citizen Ihor Hryb said on Aug. 27 that his son Pavlo, who was wanted by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in a fabricated terrorism case, had gone to Belarus and had been kidnapped by the FSB. Belarus has confirmed that he had crossed the border. If the information on the kidnapping is confirmed, Belarus can no longer be viewed as a neutral country, or even a fully sovereign one.