The Russian-Belarusian exercise Zapad to take place close to the Lithuanian border in September is alarming due to the simulated attacks against the NATO Alliance, says Lithuania's Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis.
Raimundas Karoblis
© DELFI / Domantas Pipas

"This is probably the biggest problem we have had so far – the exercise is indeed immense, and the transparency is so sparse. It is unpleasant, to put it lightly, that they will simulate attacks against the so-called countries of higher capacity, which is the NATO Alliance," Karoblis told the national television LRT on Sunday.

In his words, the exercise will simulate attacks on Poland and the Baltic states.

"It is not defense, it is probably an attack simulation against NATO, specifically against the Baltic states and probably Poland. Yes, this is shown by intelligence data from us and our Allies," said the defense minister.

In his words, the main risk expected during the training is possible mistakes, i.e., straying off and "local attempts to check our alertness by other measures."

According to the annual assessment of threats published by the Lithuanian State Security Department and the Second Investigations Department under the Defense Ministry in April, Russia has stepped up its military presence in its western territories and the Kaliningrad region, therefore, would be able to open assault of the Baltic states within 24-48 hours.

Intelligence services have also warned over possible provocations during the Zapad 2017 training in September.

Belarus' defense minister then said that Zapad 2017 on Sept. 14-20 would involve 13 ,000 troops, adding that the exercise would be a defense training. Lithuania's intelligence said that "it is very likely that the actual number of participants of the exercise will be bigger, and the training scenario includes an armed conflict with NATO." Part of the training will take place next to Lithuania's border, with a large amount of Russian troops and combat equipment relocated to the Belarusian territory.

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