Belarus and Russia will hold a joint military exercise between September 16 and 22, Nikolai Makarov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff, told reporters on August 26.
He said that the wargame would take place at two Russian training grounds, Gorokhovetsky and Ashuluk. "One must stress that we have made a decision to hold the exercise called Union Shield 2011 on the territory of the Russian Federation, far from the borders with NATO member states to demonstrate the Union State's transparent and peaceful policy and confirm the defensive nature of the [Belarusian-Russian] Regional Group of Forces," Russia's RIA Novosti news agency quoted the general as saying.
He reportedly said that the step was evidence of the two countries' intention to take real steps to strengthen European security and unilaterally restrict military operations close to the borders between the Belarusian-Russian Union State and NATO countries.
The exercise will have a defensive scenario and will involve 7,000 Russian and 5,000 Belarusian troops, some 50 aircraft and roughly 100 tanks. The event will be led by Pyotr Tsikhanowski, chief of the Belarusian Armed Forces' General Staff/first deputy defense minister, and Arkady Bakhin, commander of the Russian army's Western Military District Troops.
The event will become the first-ever Belarusian-Russian military exercise to feature Ukrainian troops. Ukraine will send an airmobile company for participation in the exercise, General Makarov said.