14 Aug 2019 14:38

Belarus, Russia not conducting Union Shield exercise near border in order not to aggravate situation in EU - Minsk

MINSK. Aug 14 (Interfax) - Belarus and Russia will conduct joint exercise Union Shield 2019 deep in Russian territory in order not to aggravate the situation in Europe, Belarusian First Deputy Defense Minister Oleg Belokonev said.

"Despite the increased number of military exercises conducted by NATO joint forces in Eastern Europe near the borders of the European Union State, the joint tactical exercise Union Shield 2019 will be conducted deep inside the territory of the Russian Federation, not on firing ranges close to the border," Belokonev told a briefing in Minsk on Wednesday.

"It was done deliberately in order not to aggravate the situation in Europe and it reaffirms the intention of Belarus and Russia to reduce tensions in the region," he said.

The joint exercise Union Shield 2019 will be held September 13-19 at a firing range near Mulino in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia.

"The upcoming exercise Union Shield 2019 is the final stage of the two-year training cycle of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation. In accordance with a decision taken by the two presidents, it is conducted once in every two years, with Belarus and Russia taking turns at hosting it," he said.

According to Belokonev, possible threats to the Union State and the risk of a military conflict were taken into account during the planning of the exercise.

"Practice shows that, as a rule, everything starts with the actions of terrorists, separatists, illegal armed groups, with external support of external forces. [Responding to] such a scenario will be practiced in the upcoming exercise," he said.

Belokonev also said the exercise is expected to have two stages and to involve some 12,000 troops, up to 950 pieces of combat vehicles, and up to 70 planes and helicopters.

Belarus will send over 4,000 troops, over 30 tanks, 80 combat armored vehicles, some 50 MRL systems, weapons and mortars, and about 15 planes and helicopters.

"Under the decision, after the exercise, the personnel, weapons, and military and special equipment of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus will return to their permanent bases on our territory by October 4," Belokonev said.