Putin at­tends mil­i­tary drills that worry neigh­bours

Truro Daily News - - WORLD - BY VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV AND IVAN SEKRETAREV

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Mon­day at­tended the week­long war games with Be­larus that have demon­strated the Rus­sian mil­i­tary’s resur­gent might and made neigh­bour­ing coun­tries ner­vous.

Putin ob­served the Za­pad (West) 2017 drills — tank at­tacks, air­borne as­saults and air raids that got un­der­way Thurs­day — at the Luzhsky range in west­ern Rus­sia, just over 100 kilo­me­tres east of Es­to­nia’s bor­der.

As part of the ma­noeu­vres, the Rus­sian mil­i­tary on Mon­day also test-fired its sta­teof-the-art cruise mis­sile at a mock tar­get in the Cen­tral Asian na­tion of Kaza­khstan, show­cas­ing the weapon’s ex­tended range and pre­ci­sion strike ca­pa­bil­ity.

Some ner­vous NATO mem­bers, in­clud­ing the Baltic states and Poland, have crit­i­cized an al­leged lack of trans­parency about the war games and ques­tioned Moscow’s in­ten­tions.

The ex­er­cises, held in sev­eral fir­ing ranges in Be­larus and west­ern Rus­sia, run through Wed­nes­day. Rus­sia and Be­larus say 5,500 Rus­sian and 7,200 Be­laru­sian troops are par­tic­i­pat­ing, but some NATO

coun­tries have es­ti­mated that up to 100,000 troops could be in­volved.

With Rus­sia’s re­la­tions with the West at a post-Cold War low point over the fight­ing in Ukraine, wor­ries about the war games ranged from al­le­ga­tions that Rus­sia could per­ma­nently de­ploy its forces to Be­larus to fears of a sur­prise on­slaught on the Baltics.

Rus­sia and Be­larus have said the ex­er­cises sim­u­late a re­sponse to for­eign­backed “ex­trem­ists” and in­sisted the ma­noeu­vres don’t threaten any­one.

Their troops are fight­ing three in­vented “ag­gres­sor coun­tries” — Veish­noriya, Lubeniya and Ves­bariya. How­ever, the Baltic states — Es­to­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia — and Poland see the monikers for the made up en­e­mies as thinly dis­guised ref­er­ences to their na­tions.

NATO has ro­tated mil­i­tary units in the Baltics and Poland and staged reg­u­lar drills in the re­gion, ac­tiv­i­ties Moscow has crit­i­cized as a re­flec­tion of the al­liance’s hos­tile in­ten­tions.

Rus­sia and Be­larus kept the stated num­ber of troops in­volved in the drills just be­low 13,000, a limit al­low­ing them to dodge more in­tru­sive in­spec­tions by NATO in line with in­ter­na­tional agree­ments. The prac­tice ma­noeu­vres nonethe­less have put Rus­sia’s mas­sive mil­i­tary mo­bi­liza­tion ca­pa­bil­ity on dis­play.

AP PHOTO

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, De­fence Min­is­ter Sergei Shoigu, left, and Chief of the Gen­eral Staff of the Rus­sian Armed Forces Valery Gerasi­mov, sec­ond right, watch a mil­i­tary ex­er­cise at a train­ing ground at the Luzhsky Range, near St. Peters­burg,...

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