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Belarussian Deputy Defence Minister Oleg Belokonev attends a news conference on the forthcoming Zapad 2017 (West 2017) joint war games with Russia, in Minsk, Belarus, August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko(reuters_tickers)
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is preparing to hold large-scale military exercises it says will be of a purely defensive nature, amid concerns in neighbouring nations that the drills may be used as a precursor for an invasion.
A total of around 12,700 servicemen will take part in the war games, code named Zapad 2017, which will be held on Sept. 14-20 in western Russia, Belarus and Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad. These will include around 5,500 Russian troops.
Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army's top general in Europe, told Reuters last month that U.S. allies in eastern Europe and Ukraine were worried the exercises could be a "Trojan horse" aimed at leaving behind military equipment brought into Belarus.
This week Russia's Defence Ministry rejected what it said were false allegations it might use the drills as a springboard to launch invasions of Poland, Lithuania or Ukraine.
The following graphic shows the breakdown of the troops and military hardware, including warships and aircraft, to be used in the exercises, according to data provided by Russia's Defence Ministry. It also shows the locations of the drills.
For a graphic on Russia's Zapad war games, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/RUSSIA-NATO/010050LJ1E5/ZAPAD.jpg
(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Mark Heinrich)