15 Sep 2020 16:41

Joint military exercise in Belarus antiterrorist, not targeting third countries - Russian Defense Ministry

MOSCOW. Sept 15 (Interfax) - The first stage of the Russian-Belarusian exercise Slavic Brotherhood 2020 has begun in Belarus, and it is not targeting third countries, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

"The first stage of the joint Belarusian-Russian tactical exercise Slavic Brotherhood 2020 began at the Brestsky range in the Republic of Belarus on September 14. This is an antiterrorist exercise, which does not target third countries," the Defense Ministry said in a statement seen by Interfax.

The first stage of the exercise will end on September 25, the ministry said.

Units of the Guards Air Assault Regiment of the Pskov Division of the Airborne Forces are representing Russia at the exercise, it said.

"During the first stage, which ends on September 25, Belarusian and Russian paratroopers will practice joint tactical group operations. There will also be days of national culture and sporting events," the ministry said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that about 300 servicemen and about 70 pieces of hardware from the elite air assault regiment of the Pskov Division of the Airborne Forces would participate in the training in Belarus.

These include BMD-4M airborne combat vehicles and BTR-MDM Rakushka armored personnel carriers.

The Russian servicemen traveled to Belarus by rail, the ministry said.

As reported earlier, the Slavic Brotherhood tactical exercise will be held at the Brestsky range in Belarus on September 14-25 and will involve over 800 servicemen from Russia and Belarus and about 170 pieces of hardware.

The Russian military will return to base after the exercise in Belarus is over, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during talks in Sochi with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Monday.

The Slavic Brotherhood exercise is an annual event hosted by participating countries since 2015. The exercise was held in Serbia in 2019. This year, it is a bilateral event, which does not include Serbian servicemen.

The exercise is taking place amid political tensions in Belarus. Protests against the outcome of the August 9 presidential election have been ongoing for more than a month. Incumbent President Lukashenko was named the winner of the election.