Russia slams German min. for ‘baseless’ remarks

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Russia’s Defense Ministry has rebuked German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen for falsely claiming that Moscow planned to send more than 100,000 troops to take part in upcoming joint military drills in Belarus.

Axar.az reports citing Press TV.

Russia has said the exercises with Belarus, code-named “Zapad 2017” and scheduled for September 14 to 20, will involve about 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops and are “purely defensive” in nature.

Von der Leyenm, however, on Thursday claimed that the upcoming exercises would be a show of Russian might because “more than one hundred thousand” forces would be participating.

“Anyone who doubts that [it is a show of might] only has to look at the high numbers of participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than one hundred thousand,” she said.

The Russian Defense Ministry rejected those remarks on Saturday, saying that von der Leyen was misinforming the public.

“We are astonished by the statement made by Ms. von der Leyen, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defense, publicly handling baseless figures that allegedly 100 thousand Russian troops engaged in the Zapad 2017 and threaten Europe,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

“The German side has timely received and does have comprehensive information of the concept, defensive nature, and true figure of the Russian troops engaged in the Zapad 2017 exercise,” the major general said.

“It is hard to imagine that Ursula von der Leyen’s colleagues from NATO, other competent German ministries or her own subordinates deliberately misled her,” the statement said. “It is much easier to suppose the opposite.”

An earlier statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry had said that Western countries sought to create a “hype” over the planned exercises and justify military buildups near Russian borders.

“The hype was fanned up artificially and is definitely meant to convince the Western public that the cost of deploying additional forward military presence in Poland and the Baltics and increased NATO military activity is justified,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said last month.

Russia has criticized such a buildup as a threat to its national security.

In February, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “NATO’s expansion has led to an unprecedented level of tension over the last 30 years in Europe.”

Western countries and their small allies in Eastern Europe have long brandished what they say is a Russian threat to justify military activities and preparations near Russia.

During a recent visit to an Estonian military base near the Russian border, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the world today was increasingly dangerous because of, among other things, “a more assertive Russia.”

“We have proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, we have terrorists, instability, and we have a more assertive Russia. It is a more dangerous world,” he said in an interview with The Guardian, which was published on Friday.

2017.09.10 / 12:59
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