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NAF: it is unclear if Russian forces have left Belarus after Zapad exercises

Leonīds Kalniņš/youtube.com.
At the moment it is unclear if Russian military forces are completely gone from Belarus after Zapad military exercises, says commander of Latvian National Armed Forces Lieutenant General Leonīds Kalniņš.

As the highest ranking military official in the country operating with facts available to him, he said that military exercises trained high-level brigade and division headquarters so that they are able to secure operational management. Secondly, exercises trained armed forces to be more mobile so that they can move around a large number of units, personnel and military vehicles. Thirdly, the scenario used in Zapad exercises was ‘aggressive and offence-focused’.

Kalniņš explains that no changes are expected for Latvia’s defence plans after Zapad. Nevertheless, activities and measures intended to improve combat capabilities of Latvia’s army will continue.

«Every country has the right to train their armed forces, and we have long since understood that our neighbour has intentions different than what would have preferred. The objectives listed in the national defence concept and other planning documents remain unchanged, and we will continue developing our armed forces. Zapad exercises have not initiated development of any specific capabilities of NAF. We perform constant development of our combat capabilities regardless of Zapad,» said Kalniņš.

NAF commander does not believe Latvian society should worry about massive military exercises performed by their neighbour. «I would like to make it clear – we are prepared to defend Latvia. In spite of how Zapad was described in mass-media, it does not mean we have to make any cardinal decisions about any major threats,» said Kalniņš.

Although the commander of Ukrainian armed forces Viktor Muzhenko announced at the end of September that Russian armed forces were present in Belarus after the end of Zapad exercises, Kalniņš says that based on facts it remains unclear if Russian forces have left Belarus. «If the fact that Russian forces have not left Belarus is confirmed, I would say so. It remains unclear to this day. Russia has officially announced that that it has withdrawn its forces. This is why I will not comment on the statements made by Ukrainian colleague,» says Kalniņš.

The commander of Latvian National Armed Forces says more conclusions about Zapad exercises will follow.


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