Russian president attends joint military drills in Belarus

OBUZ-LESNOVSKY RANGE (Brest Region), September 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Belarus on Tuesday to inspect the final stage of the Zapad 2009 joint military drills with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko.

The Zapad (West) 2009 large-scale joint military exercises being held by Russia and Belarus started on September 18, with about 12,500 service personnel, including 6,500 Belarusians and some 6,000 Russians, and up to 200 items of military equipment and hardware taking part.

The exercise also involves 63 aircraft and 40 helicopters, some 470 armored vehicles, 228 tanks, 234 self-propelled and towed artillery pieces, mortars and multiple artillery rocket systems.

Among other things, it 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.

On Monday, Medvedev attended another phase of the drills at the Khmelevka shooting range in the Kaliningrad Region, Russia's exclave on the Baltic Sea.

The Russian president emphasized that the drills were purely defensive.



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