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Russia, Belarus do not ensure transparency during Zapad exercise - NATO
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    Topics - Defence Matters ENG - News

    Russia, Belarus do not ensure transparency during Zapad exercise - NATO

    BRUSSELS, Aug 24 (LETA--AFP) - NATO said Thursday Russia and ally Belarus had failed to meet international commitments to be fully transparent about a massive military exercise set to unfold next month.

    The exercise, named Zapad (West), has stoked fresh alarm in Poland and the Baltic states.

    "We regret that neither Russia nor Belarus has applied the Vienna Document transparency measures to Zapad," a NATO official told AFP. "The Vienna Document transparency measures are important because they prevent misperceptions and miscalculations," the official added.

    The Vienna Document requires all sides to provide advance information about exercises and allow observer teams so as to avoid any dangerous misunderstandings. For example, manoeuvres involving more than 13,000 troops must be notified in advance and be open to observers.

    Belarus has said Zapad 2017 involves 12,700 troops, just under the limit, but Lithuania and other critics claim there could be as many as 100,000.

    Russia dismissed concerns over the exercises.

    "I do not see any reason to be afraid. Everything, as usual, will be open and friendly," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told Rossiya 24 news channel.

    The NATO official said Belarus had invited military liaison missions to attend a special visitors day on its territory, with two alliance experts due to go along.

    "However, this is not the same (level of) observation as set out in the Vienna Document," the official said.

    "A Vienna Document observation (mission) has required elements to it -- briefings on the scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers about the exercise, and overflights of the exercise," the official said.

    "Russia and Belarus are instead choosing a selective approach that falls short. Such avoidance of mandatory transparency raises questions," the official said.

    The official said that in marked contrast, NATO allies applied the Vienna Document rules "consistently and regularly go beyond them and invite observers, even when troop numbers in the exercise are below the mandatory threshold.

    Russia's 2014 intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea have strained ties with the west to the limit, with NATO in response bolstering its presence in eastern European countries, now allies but once ruled from Moscow.

    NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Friday visits Poland, one of the most critical of Russian actions, to see a multinational NATO battalion deployed there earlier this year.

    Three others have been deployed to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as NATO seeks to reassure them they will not be left in the lurch in any fresh crisis.

    • Published: 24.08.2017 17:45
    • LETA
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