Red carpet rolled for Zapad-2017: Russian aircraft arrive in Belarus

Mikoyan MiG-29 battle planes and Sukhoi Su-34 fighter bombers have already landed at military airfields in the Belarusian town of Baranovichy and in Hrodna regions.

Russia’s Fighter Regiment crews were the first to arrive, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense reports.

“Today, planes and helicopters of Russia’s Western Military District which will take part in the joint strategic exercise Zapad-2017 have been relocated to the military airfields,” the statement reads.

Belarusian girl wearing national costumes met Russian pilots with the bread and salt of hospitality.

Interestingly, a Belarusian Colonel, who welcomed the guests, said: “We have one and the same sky, and we are ready to defend it together.”

Now the Russian military are preparing for the war game. The Belarusian side is reported to organise an entertainment program – sightseeing tours and concerts – for them.

The Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad-2017 scheduled for September, 14-20 is supposed to demonstrate ‘persistence in efforts to ensure security of the two brotherly nations’. Such exercises are held in Belarus and Russia interchangeably every two years. In September, there will be about 10,000 troops involved in the exercise in the Belarusian territory (7,200 – the Belarusian Armed Forces and about 3,000 – the Russian Army).

At the same time, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite and a number of European politicians believe that the ‘West-2017’ demonstrates the preparation of Belarus and Russia to the war with the West. In mid April, Oleksandr Turchynov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, stressed that the joint military exercise might become the preparation for an assault against Ukraine in September. In turn, Belarusian democratic circles fear that Russian troops will not come back home after the war game.

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