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Zapad 2009: Joint anti-aircraft defence exercises begin

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Russian, Belarusian joint military exercise from Sep 8-29

MINSK (BNS): Russia and Belarus have commenced the first phase of their joint military exercise with the involvement of some 100 aircraft and 12,600 military personnel, according to the Belarusian Defense Ministry.

The five-day first phase of the joint Zapad 2009 (West 2009) anti-aircraft defense exercises will concentrate on the preparation of defense operations of the regional forces.

The second phase of the exercises, on September 23-29, will focus on the effectiveness of the unified regional anti-aircraft defense systems of Russia and Belarus, a Ria Novosti report said Friday.

During the exercise the two countries will also rehearse interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish in February.

The Russian news agency quoting the Belarusian Defense Ministry statement said, 63 airplanes, 40 helicopters, 470 infantry fighting vehicles, 228 tanks and 234 artillery systems will participate in the exercises.

S-300s considered as one of the world's most effective all-altitude regional air defense systems will also be used.

Belarus has several Russian-made S-300 air defense battalions on combat duty, and has long been negotiating the purchase of advanced S-400 systems from Russia.

Besides the 12,600 Russian and Belarusian military personnel, around 30 Kazakh military personnel will also participate, it added.

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