MOSCOW — Armenian soldiers participated on Thursday in the opening ceremony of vast joint military exercises conducted by Russia and Belarus.
The main part of the weeklong “Zapad-2021” (“West-2021”) exercises will start on Friday at more than a dozen training grounds in the two states. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, they will involve up to 200,000 military personnel, apparently making them the biggest war games in Europe in decades.
The bulk of the participating troops are from Russia and Belarus. The others were sent by three other members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization — Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — as well as India and Mongolia.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry announced that around 80 Armenian soldiers marched during the opening ceremony held at the Russian military’s Mulino training center about 360 kilometers east of Moscow.
The ministry said late last week that its troops will take part in the drills in line with a Russian-Armenian plan of joint military activities in 2021. It did not specify their number.
The Zapad-2021 drills are based on a scenario where Russia and Belarus are under attack. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said at the opening ceremony that the exercises will enable to develop universal approaches for readiness of troops, strengthen partnership and form new joint traditions of combat brotherhood. He emphasized that West-2021 drills are solely defensive in nature.