MOSCOW, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday that a large-scale Russia-Belarus military exercise has met its pre-set goals in maintaining security and fighting terrorism.
The Zapad 2017 (West 2017) joint drills, reportedly the largest military drills between Russia and Belarus since the Cold War, were held on Sept. 14-20 at six testing ranges in the two countries, with the involvement of about 12,700 troops, 70 airplanes, up to 680 combat vehicles and 10 warships, according to Kremlin press service.
Shoigu told a teleconference with Russia's senior military officers that military and public administration bodies have gained practical experience in these joint actions to ensure the security of Russia and Belarus.
Russian troops and weapons have returned to their permanent deployment bases as the drills concluded, he said, adding that worries of some Western politicians and media that the exercises might result in a seizure of foreign territories proved to be groundless.
Russia's European neighbors have been on high alert since the beginning of the drills. Skeptical about the "real intentions" of Moscow, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) criticized a lack of transparency in the drills.
"All nations have the right to exercise military forces ... The important thing is that when forces are exercised there is maximum transparency and predictability to avoid miscalculations, misunderstandings and incidents," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier last month.
Shoigu reiterated that the drills were purely defensive in nature and aimed at locating terror threats, combating bandit sabotage groups and protecting important facilities.
The Zapad 2017 exercises were conducted in accordance with the requirements of the 2011 Vienna Document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and they were observed by 95 representatives from 50 countries, the Russian minister said.