Russia is carrying out what it claims to be one of the biggest military exercises in the country’s history alongside its ally Belarus in what is seen as a show of force to NATO and a show of support towards the Belarusian regime which has been sanctioned repeatedly by the west.
The Kremlin claims that the ZAPAD 2021 (west 2021) exercise will involve around 200,000 troops from Russia and Belarus and take place across several training grounds in the two countries from 10th-16th September.
The military drills appear to be both a show of force towards NATO as well as a way to demonstrate Putin’s unwavering support for the increasingly isolated Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko.
Andrei Yeliseyeu, Research Director of the EAST Center, told Newsflash: “The main aim of the Zapad-2021 games is to show the west that Russia is military prepared and Belarus is under its protection.”
Lukashenko often referred to as Europe’s last dictator has been under pressure from the U.S., Europe and their allies since he brutally crushed dissent following his highly contested re-election in 2020 which opened the door to his 27th year in power.
Pressure on Lukaehsnko from NATO and the EU has been ramped up in recent months as they accused his regime of aiding illegal migrants across the border into the EU.
Lukashenko’s isolation from the west has led Belarus’ to shift further into the Kremlin’s sphere of influence with Putin promising to provide military and economic support regardless of Western sanctions.
Andrei explained: “The weakened and illegitimate Lukashenko is becoming increasingly dragged into the Kremlin’s sphere of influence dragging the country towards a near-total dependence on Russia.”
In the footage from ZAPAD 2021 Russian and Belarusian forces can be seen working together carrying out bombing runs with ZVO bombers and Mi-35 and Mi-24 helicopters fitting a variety of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
The ZAPAD-2021 games are based on the idea that an ‘imaginary western force’ is trying to unseat power in Belarus and the Union State (Russia and Belarus) must work together to repel the invasion.
According to Andrei, these games are a part of a larger geopolitical shift that could see the Kremlin subjugate Minsk, stripping it of its sovereignty and in effect taking control of a country home to over nine million people.
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Story By: Peter Barker, Sub-Editor: James King, Agency: Newsflash
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