TALLINN - Estonia has received no invitation from Russia to observe the Zapad large scale military exercise to be held by Russia and Belarus in September, but the Russian authorities will present the exercise to the military attaches accredited to other countries' diplomatic missions in Moscow during a separate event.
"The military attaches accredited to Moscow have been invited to attend an event at the Luga training area on September 18 and 19, in the course of which Russia will present the Zapad joint military exercise. The Estonian defense attaches are ready to take part in the event," Susan Lillevali, spokesperson for the Estonian Ministry of Defense, told BNS on Wednesday.
The joint military exercise of Russia and Belarus will be held in the territory of both countries from Sept. 14-20. The exercise has caused concern in other countries because in similar exercises in 2013 and 2009 Russia, among other things, allegedly rehearsed an attack on its neighbors.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in mid-July that "from previous experiences related to previous exercises, we have every reason to believe it may be substantially more troops participating than the official reported numbers," and invited Russia to allow NATO observers to monitor the maneuvers.
The same has been said by Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik, who told the Maaleht weekly in July that Russia should declare the exercise on the basis of the so-called Vienna Document, according to which every exercise with more than 9,000 participants should be declared. Russia has said that 13,000 troops will be taking part in the exercise.
Belarus has sent invitations to Estonia and other countries to observe activities of the exercise in its territory but has not offered any details.