Russia-Belarus military drills 'defensive' - Medvedev

KALININGRAD, September 28 (RIA Novosti) - Large-scale joint military exercises being held by Russian and Belarus are not aimed at anyone and are purely of a defense nature, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday.

Zapad (West) 2009 started on September 18 and ends on Tuesday, with about 12,500 service personnel and up to 200 items of military equipment and hardware having taken part.

"I would like to point out that the aim of our exercise is of a defensive nature. We are not threatening anyone," Medvedev said on Monday while attending the exercise in Russia's Kaliningrad Region.

The president also said that the development of the Armed Forces is impossible without such drills and therefore all scheduled exercises in Russia would be conducted according to plan regardless of the ongoing global financial crisis.

"Despite problems of economic nature that emerged within the last year we are going to implement the whole scheduled program of military drills," Medvedev said.

The ex-Soviet neighbors announced plans in the late 1990s to form a union state in a bid to achieve greater political, economic and military integration, but the project has largely existed on paper.

The exercise among other things rehearses interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish recently.

Russia is represented by the Moscow Military District units, Ground Forces, Air Force, Air Defense Forces, Airborne Troops and Baltic Fleet naval task forces, and Belarus by operational command units, Interior Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and State Security Committee troops.



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