Russia Kicks Off War Games Amid Western Worry

The annual Rapid Trident military exercises taking place in the western Ukrainian city of Yavoriv until September 23 involve an

The war games come with tensions between Russian Federation and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation at their highest since the Cold War due to the Kremlin's meddling in Ukraine and the US-led alliance bolstering its forces in eastern Europe.

In the drills, which cover a vast area from Belarus and Russia's Western borders up into the Arctic, the two countries' troops will battle a fake state invented for the goal. President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite told CNBC Thursday that Russian Federation has built-up its equipment and its cooperation with Belarus, which could pose a threat to Lithuania.

The Belarus-Russia joint army exercise Zapad 2017 has kicked off in the two countries, BelTA learned from the Information and Mass Communications Department of Russia's Defense Ministry.

Perhaps the most plausible scenario worrying Western military planners is that the thousands of Russian troops moving into Belarus for the exercises will never go home.

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Western officials raise concerns Moscow may use drills as a "Trojan horse" to make incursions into Poland and Baltics.

September 14, Zapad 2017 joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises start on seven training grounds in the territory of Belarus.

In 2014, Russian Federation staged exercises near its border with Ukraine. Some NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized a lack of transparency about the exercises and questioned Moscow's real intentions.

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"The security situation has taken a turn for the worse", Byden said.

But despite Vladimir Putin's insistence that only 12,700 troops will be involved- just under the 13,000 figure that triggers treaty agreements for worldwide observers - Germany and France say the real figure is closer to 100,000.

"Up to 70 airplanes and helicopters and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including some 250 tanks, up to 200 weapons, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars, and up to ten combat ships" are also participating in the drills, the statement said.

Russia-West relations nosedived to their lowest level since the Cold War in recent years after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support of separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine, clashes that have left over 10,000 people dead.

Moscow has held a stream of exercises since ties with the West plunged in 2014 over Ukraine, with the military claiming some drills included almost 100,000 troops.

"So we call on Russian Federation to observe the letter and the spirit of the Vienna Document", NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Estonia last week.

There is little concern that Russian Federation might use it to launch a real invasion, but Lithuania's defence minister Raimundas Karoblis, also voiced concern.

However, Russia has stressed that only 12,700 troops are taking part in the war games, which falls under the 13,000 threshold for mandatory monitoring under the Vienna agreement.

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