Belarus To Conduct Large-scale Troop Exercise In Response To NATO War Games

Belarus will conduct a large-scale troop exercise in response to the August-September 2001 NATO war games (that will also involve the Baltics) on Lithuanian territory. This was disclosed to reporters in Khatyn today by President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. (The Khatyn memorial is located at the site of Khatyn village that was burned by the Nazis in 1943; 149 local dwellers, including 75 children, were killed as a result -- Ed.) We must react adequately, if they start flexing their military muscle in direct proximity to our borders, Lukashenko went on to say. At the same time, he noted that Belarus was a peace-loving country, and that it didn't intend to threaten anyone. In his words, armored vehicles, air-force units and air-defense units will participate in the forthcoming exercise, due to take place at the Dretun or Pripyat training grounds. Lukashenko ordered his Defense Minister to submit the relevant proposals concerning that exercise. According to Lukashenko, the projected exercise will involve Belarus Armed Forces alone. We so far have no intention of inviting the Russian army, Lukashenko added. However, representatives of the Russian Armed Forces, as well as NATO experts, will be invited to attend that open exercise in the capacity of observers, Lukashenko stressed. The republican Security Council is to hold its session next week, endorsing the national-security concept and the republican military doctrine, Lukashenko said in conclusion.

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