On September 14, Russia and Belarus will launch large-scale military exercises in the eastern regions of the countries. The exercises, known as Zapad (West) are scheduled to last through September 20. Russian military officials report that some 13,000 troops, along with armored vehicles and aircraft, will participate in the drills. However, military analysts predict that the actual number participating troops will be significantly higher, with estimates ranging from 24,000 to 100,000 troops. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense has invited observers from seven European countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, to monitor the drills.
Russia and Belarus hold coordinated military exercises every four years in Belarus and western Russia, close to the borders with Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia. This year's exercises come at a time of high tension between NATO member states and Russia. Officials in the countries along the Belarus and Russian borders have expressed concerns that the exercises will be used as a cover for the beginning of military operations in Eastern Europe, or for Moscow to establish a larger permanent military presence in Belarus. NATO regularly holds military exercises in Eastern Europe, including recent drills in Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria in July.
Individuals in Belarus and Russia are advised to stay abreast of any relevant developments to the situation via media coverage. Follow all instructions issued by local authorities.
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