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15 Sep 2017

Lukashenko to stay in Belarus to watch Zapad 2017 army exercise, invites Putin

MINSK, 15 September (BelTA) – President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will attend the active phase of the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017, BelTA learned from Natalya Eismont, Press Secretary of the Belarusian head of state.

In her words, Alexander Lukashenko will be made familiar with the progress of the exercise in Belarus. “It is still too early to talk about when and where specifically. This information will be released later,” said the press secretary.

BelTA asked Natalya Eismont to comment on mass media reports stating that the Belarus president was initially supposed to go to Russia to watch the exercise but the plans have changed since then. “We don’t look at this matter from this angle. Certainly, in the run-up to the army exercise the sides were busy consulting via various channels, taking care of all the preparations. Ways for the heads of state to take part in these events were discussed. However, the initial plans stipulated that Alexander Lukashenko will attend the army exercise in Belarus. In fact no official invitation for the Belarusian head of state to travel to Russia to watch the exercise has been received,” noted the press secretary.

Natalya Eismont attributed the decision to the fact that this year most of the action will take place in Belarus, including eight army exercise areas and two sectors of terrain. The bulk of the forces and assets, including the Russian component, are deployed in Belarus for the exercise. “As you know, such large-scale Belarusian-Russian wargames are held alternatively in each country every two years. This time Belarus’ territory is in focus. All the other episodes of the exercise are secondary. This is why it is only natural for one to expect the two presidents to attend the army exercise in Belarus. By the way, President of Russia Vladimir Putin has been invited [to attend the exercise] but we’ve received no official response so far. We are waiting for it,” stated Natalya Eismont.

The press secretary added that according to the available unofficial information the Russian president would attend the Zapad 2017 exercise in a different manner.

Natalya Eismont stressed that regardless of how the Russian president participates in the Zapad 2017 exercise, Alexander Lukashenko will surely attend the exercise in Belarus one of these days. “We consider the mass media reports you’ve mentioned nothing more than idle speculations. It is yet unclear what has prompted them,” concluded the press secretary of the Belarusian head of state.

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