Zapad 2017 military training to be held in Belarus and Russia this year will be the main challenge to Lithuania's national security, says Darius Jauniškis, director of the Lithuanian State Security Department.
Russian soldiers train in Kaliningrad region
© RIA / Scanpix

He warned about the scope of the training and its usual character to be targeted against NATO, although did not provide any specific data about the exercise.

"I believe that the main thin is that Zapad is held (…) in the neighboring Belarus, in Russia and next to our borders," Jauniškis told journalists at the parliament on Thursday after attending a meeting of the National Security and Defense Committee.

"We have data that is publicly available about the train cars, the deployment of troops and the numbers presented. It is alarming along with the scope and the direction, as Zapad is always a big question. This year we have to observe which direction it takes," he added.

In Jauniškis' words, the intelligence will have to keep an eye to see whether the character of the exercise is defense or assault. The department's director said the alarming aspect of the war games is that they are always "aimed against the Western side."

On Thursday, he briefed the National Security and Defence Committee on the review of national security threats. In his words, no major changes occurred in the threats over the past year.

"There is nothing very new about the threats but my suggestion is to wait for the report to be published. I do not think there will be surprises, the situation is rather stable," said the director of the State Security Department.

Last year's review of threats to national security listed the following key threats: Russia's imperial ambitions, aggressive foreign policy, readiness to use military force, extremely active intelligence operations against Lithuania's interests, hostile information policies and efforts to instigate hostility of national communities of Lithuania against the Lithuanian state.

Officials said earlier Zapad war games provided training to occupy the southern part of Lithuania, thus blocking the only land route for NATO countries to the Baltic states. Russia was also accused of failing to provide actual numbers of the troops and equipment involved in the exercise.

Zapad was last held in 2013. Moscow and Minsk then said the exercise included about 10,000 soldiers.

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