Ukrainian Minister of Defense: Russia can use the forthcoming Zapad-2017 military exercises to invade any European country
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Stepan Poltorak claims that the joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad 2017 scheduled for September could be used by Russia to stage an actual invasion of any neighboring country.
"Ukraine and the world have a common vision of the prospects for the exercise conducted by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The forthcoming West-2017 exercises will be extremely powerful. They could be used to launch an aggressive action not only against Ukraine but against any country in Europe that has a common border with Russia," he wrote on Facebook.
Poltorak stressed that he will "respond adequately" to the conduct of these exercises.
Ukraine and the eastern European countries of NATO fear that Zapad-2017 might be used as a "Trojan horse" that would allow Russia to leave transported military equipment in key positions.
NATO officials believe that Russia has already used such tactics during the annexation of the Crimea, in the Donbas and in Syria. Earlier, Estonian Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna also said that Russian troops could remain stationed in Belarus after the September exercises.
Zapad-2017 exercises will be held simultaneously on several training grounds in Russia and Belarus from September 14 to September 20 this year. Announcing the maneuvers, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu called them "the main event of joint training of Russian and Belarusian armed forces in 2017."