Russia, Belarus to hold joint drills once every two years

MOSCOW, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Russia and Belarus will hold large-scale, joint strategic military exercises similar to "Zapad 2009 (West 2009)" once every two years, said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday.

When inspecting troops involved in the exercises in Baranovichi, Belarus, with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, Medvedev said the two leaders "have agreed that such exercises will be held once every two years alternately in Belarus and Russia."

"We hope to hold such exercises in the future, because such military events are the only way to improve combat skills and set up a quality defense system for our countries and our Union," the Interfax news agency quoted Medvedev as saying.

When attending another stage of the drills held in Russia's western enclave of Kaliningrad on Monday, Medvedev stressed that the drills were defensive.

"I would like to emphasize particularly that these exercises are purely defensive, are being held in line with international law, and are aimed at helping our countries in developing their armed forces and protecting our states and our Union," he said.

Moscow and Minsk have been working on creating a Union State since 1997, envisioning a common economic, customs, and political space.

The two-stage "Zapad 2009 (West 2009)" ended on Tuesday with involvement of about 12,500 service personnel, and up to 200 items of military equipment and hardware, including 40 aircraft.



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