The joint strategic exercise of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia Zapad 2017 starts on 14 September.
The exercise will be held on 14-20 September. Belarus will provide the exercise areas near Lepel, Borisov, Losvido, Osipovichi, two exercise areas of the Air Force and Air Defense Command near Ruzhany and Domanovo and two areas in Vitebsk Oblast – Dretun and Glubokoye. Russia will provide the exercise areas Luzhsky, Strugi Krasnyye, and Pravdinsky in Kaliningrad Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, and Pskov Oblast. Modern approaches to using armed forces and the experience of modern armed conflicts were taken into account when the concept of the Belarusian-Russian army exercise Zapad 2017 was put together.
The concept stems from a crisis situation, which gets aggravated due to activities of illegal armed groups, international separatist and terrorist organizations enjoying outside support. For the purposes of the exercise, the warring parties are located within real borders of Belarus: the Northerners, which include the Union State of Belarus and Russia, and the Westerners, which are represented by a coalition of interested countries. All the recent armed conflicts began in line with this scenario.
Some 12,700 military personnel will take part in the exercise. About 10,200 personnel will be deployed in Belarus, with Belarus contributing slightly more than 7,000 people and Russia supplying about 3,000 troops. The Belarusian part of the exercise will also involve 370 armored vehicles, including about 140 combat tanks. Up to 150 artillery units and multiple-launch rocket systems, over 40 aircraft and helicopters will be deployed as well.
The exercise will include two stages. During the first three-day stage there are plans to prepare troops for combat deployment and for isolating the areas where illegal armed groups and the enemy's sabotage and reconnaissance forces operate. Air Force and Air Defense units in charge of protecting important government institutions and military installations will be reinforced. During the second four-day stage of the exercise there are plans to practice managing troops during a combat operation aimed at repulsing aggression against the Union State of Belarus and Russia. Interaction and all kinds of support in a rapidly changing situation will be practiced.
A large number of observers have been invited to attend the Zapad 2017 army exercise. Initiations have been sent to international organizations such as the UN, OSCE, NATO, CIS, CSTO, ICRC and also the military-diplomatic corps accredited in the embassies of foreign states in Belarus - a total of more than 80 people. The Belarusian Defense Ministry also expects military observers from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Sweden and Norway.
Zapad 2017 will be widely covered by the media. Journalists will be provided access to the military ranges Ruzhansky, Osipovichsky and Domanovo during the active phase of the exercise on 17-19 September. Daily briefings for accredited journalists will be held starting from 14 September. About 270 foreign mass media outlets have applied for accreditation. Applications have been received from news agencies, publications and TV channels from all the neighboring countries, and also the UK, Germany, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United States, Turkey, Finland, France, and Sweden. The army exercise will also be covered by journalists from Qatar, South Korea and Japan.