President Putin is observing progress in the main phase of Zapad-2021 exercise

© Vadim Savitsky/Russian Ministry of Defense Press Office/TASS

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A coalition group of Armenia, Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Mongolia has begun the main phase of the joint strategic exercise Zapad-2021 at the Mulino proving ground in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. Russian President Vladimir Putin is observing progress in the exercise.

“In the main stage of the exercise Russian military units acting in cooperation with foreign contingents are practicing joint operations on a forest and marshy terrain to repel an enemy offensive, conduct maneuverable defense, deliver massive fire strikes and eliminate a hypothetical enemy’s penetrations,” the Russian Defense Ministry told the media on Monday.

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Experience obtained in the latest armed conflicts, including the operation in Syria, is used during the exercise.

First, Belarusian tank forces lured advancing enemy forces into a fire and mine trap, for which they resorted to the feigned retreat tactic, simulating pullback from one line of defense to another under the cover of smoke and aerosol screens. Then, in cooperation with mechanized infantry of Russia’s Western Military Region the tank units inflicted the maximum losses on the advancing enemy group and forced it to continue the offensive in an disadvantageous direction.

To mislead the hypothetical enemy’s aircraft the defending forces of the coalition group deployed fake defense positions of a tank battalion and launch sites of an air defense battalion armed with Buk and S-300 systems. For this 3D-mockups of armored vehicles and air defense missile systems were used.

The final phase of the exercise, the Russian Defense Ministry said, involves all types of weapons currently in service in Russia’s Aerospace Force, attack drones, multiple rocket launchers, precision-guided ammunition, heavy mortar systems TOS-1 and an ISDM remote-controlled minelaying engineering system.

Strategic exercise Zapad-2021

Russia and Belarus hold a strategic exercise once in two years. Zapad-2021 is the closing stage of joint military training this year. The two countries’ forces are conducting drills on September 10-16 at nine sites in Russia, in the Baltic Sea, at five sites in Belarus.

Taking part in the exercise are up to 200,000 troops, 80 planes and helicopters, 760 combat vehicles, including 290 tanks, 240 artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers and 15 ships.

The maximum number of personnel involved in the exercise subject to the Vienna Document of 2011 in the territory of Russia does not exceed 6,400. All command centers and forces are to be back to their permanent location by the middle of October.

Russian President arrived at the proving ground by helicopter in the afternoon

Putin arrived at the proving ground by helicopter in the afternoon. At the command center, the chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov reported to the president that about 20,000 officers and men, 5,600 pieces of military equipment, 160 tanks, more than 100 planes and more than 100 helicopters were involved in the exercise. Gerasimov also said that 150 representatives of foreign defense ministries and military attaches were present at the proving ground.

Combat robots for reconnaissance and fire support

At the exercise, Putin was shown combat robots in action. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu briefed the head of state on this new type of military hardware. Video footage of the defense minister making comments were shown on the Rossiya-1 television channel.

“The orange spots are the first unit of combat robots,” Shoigu told Putin, pointing at the proving ground. “They are well-armed. The range of operation is up to three kilometers. Each carries antitank guided missiles.”