Lithuania on Friday received an invitation from the Belarusian Defense Ministry to all accredited foreign defense attaches to take part in the observation program of the joint Belarusian-Russian strategic exercise Zapad 2017.
Zapad-2013
© RIA / Scanpix

The program includes presentation of the exercise by the Belarusian Defense Ministry, a visit to the training grounds and other institutions in Minsk linked with the exercise, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said.

Top officials of the ministry applauded the invitation from Belarus' military leadership. "Such openness is very important for neighboring countries. We hope that observers will have an opportunity to get to know all key elements of the Zapad 2017 training," the ministry said in a press release.

In the format of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Belarus has presented Zapad 2017 as the largest exercise held in the Belarusian territory this year.

Belaurs has officially said that military experts of neighboring states, i.e., the Lithuanian army's Weaponry Control Division, would also be invited to observe the active phase of the exercise in the Belarusian territory on Sept. 14-20. Lithuania, however, has not yet received the invitation.

According to the press release, Russia has not declared Zapad 2017 separately. Russian officials held a presentation of the exercise at the NATO-Russia council meeting in Brussels on July 13, however, Russia has not yet announced its intentions in connection to invitation of observers to the part of the training held in its territory.

Lithuania's defense attaches residing in Russia and Belarus observed Zapad 2009 and Zapad 2013, while the country's military verification specialists were invited to observe the training in the Belarusian territory in 2009 and 2013. If invited, Lithuania's military experts would also go to observe the drills this year, said the ministry.

The large-scale Belarusian-Russian exercise Zapad 2017 has triggered alarm in the neighboring NATO members.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Vilnius in June that NATO would keep a close eye on the military training of Russia, China and Belarus, including Zapad.

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