InformNapalm international intelligence community held a marathon monitoring of public information sources about the preparations for, and the active phase of Zapad-2017 joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises. We gathered the most compelling facts and interesting data in a single stream. Our readers contributed information for this stream (tweets, geotagged photos, and other tidbits) in the comments section. The monitoring was carried out in cooperation and coordination with the information project 1863x.com.
Zapad-2017 military exercises took place in Belarus from September 14 to 20, 2017, in six training areas: Lepel, combined arms – Barysaw (Borisov), Losvida (Losvido) – in Viciebsk Oblast, Osipovichi in Mahiliow Oblast, at the airfields and air defense troops in Ruzhany and 174th training center in Damanava (Domanovo) in Brest Oblast, as well as on two sites in Viciebsk Oblast – at the former Dretun test site (26 km to the north of Polatsk) and Hlybokaye not far from the district center of the same name.
As of October 13, 2017, InformNapalm volunteers found and proved that parts of the following units of the Russian Armed Forces were redeployed to participate in the joint strategic exercises in the territory of Belarus:
From the 1st Tank Army of the Russian Armed Forces:
- 4th Kantemirovskaya Tank Division, in particular, the 275th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment (SPAR, military unit 73941, Naro-Fominsk city, Moscow Oblast). The regiment operates 2S19 Msta-S 152 mm self-propelled howitzers (SPH) and 2B17-1 Tornado-G multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). A vіdeo dated August 28, 2017, shows a redeployment to Belarus of at least 12 MSTA-S howitzers of the 275th SPAR, which is equivalent to the total number of SPHs of this type in service with the Armed Forces of Belarus. Also, from the 4th Tank Division, a battalion tactical group (BTG) of the 423rd Motorized Rifle Regiment (MRR) (military unit 91701, Naro-Fominsk city, Moscow Oblast) and the 137th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion (military unit 54919, Naro-Fominsk city, Moscow Oblast) was redeployed to Belarus.
- 6th Armored Brigade (village of Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast). A brigade tactical group of this brigade was detected, consisting of three tank battalions (less one tank company, in total approximately 100-120 main battle tanks (MBTs))
- 69th Logistics Brigade, in particular, the 81st Separate Maintenance Battalion (military unit 98579, village of Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
- 288th Artillery Brigade (military unit 30683, village of Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
- 2nd Tamanskaya Motorized Rifle Division (probably)
From the specialized support troops of the Russian Armed Forces:
- Center of Mobile Communications Nodes of the 14th Main Communications Center of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (military unit 25801-9, Chekhov city, Moscow Oblast);
- 34th Control Brigade of the 58th Army of the Southern Military District (military unit 29202, 29th Military Town, Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia)
- From the Air Force of the Russian Armed Forces, 105th Combined Aviation Division:
- 47th Separate Combined Aviation Regiment (Su-34 aircraft, military unit 45117, Baltimore military airfield, Voronezh city, temporarily based at the Buturlinovka airfield in Voronezh Oblast).
- 14th Fighter Aviation Regiment (MiG-29, Khalina, Kursk Oblast)
- 4th Separate Air Reconnaissance Squadron (Shatalovo, Smolensk region, approximately 50 km from the border with Belarus), a tactical reconnaissance aircraft Su-24MR was spotted;
- 159th Fighter Aviation Squadron (Besovets, Karelia), the probable participation of Su-27 fighter pair on duty at the airfield of the 61st Fighter Air Base (Baranovichi), there is still no confirmation that this unit has been ordered to stand down.
From other units of the Russian Air Force:
- 344th Torzhok Center of Combat and Retraining of Army Aircraft Pilots (military unit 45095, Torzhok, Tver Oblast), Berkuty helicopter aerobatic team was observed.
From the military police:
- A unit of the regional territorial military police administration for the Western Military District, probably permanently stationed in Naro-Fominsk (Moscow Oblast).
Military bases of the Russian Armed Forces stationed on the territory of Belarus also took part in the maneuvers:
- 43rd Communications Center of the Russian Navy Vileyka (military unit 49390, Vileyka, Minsk Region).
- 474th Separate Radio Technical Unit Hantsavichy (military unit 03522, village Ozerichye, Minsk Region), a Volga-type radar warning station.
Below we publish a collection of photographs taken by Russian soldiers on the territory of Belarus during the Zapad-2017 exercises, together with the awards they received (click on the pictures to enlarge).
Conclusions based on the monitoring
Russian-Belarussian strategic exercises Zapad-2017 were used primarily as a cover for conducting a wide range of operational combat training of the Russian Armed Forces. Alongside Zapad-2017, a Command Post Exercise under the same code name was held throughout the whole European part of the Russian Federation. At the same time, exercises of various size were conducted in practically all military districts of the Russian Armed Forces and at the ranges of the Joint Strategic Command North. In parallel, there were exercises of Russian occupation military forces in Transnistria, Crimea, particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and in Abkhazia. The total number of military personnel estimated to be involved in the exercises in all of these locations was between 150,000 and 240,000 servicemen.
According to the scenario of the exercises, the tasks and objectives of Zapad-2017 were a part of global strategic maneuvers, followed a single plan, and were aimed at training the Russian armed forces for a strategic operation in the European theater of war. This conclusion is strongly suggested by the large concentration of military forces and assets during the exercises in the regions directly bordering NATO bloc countries, Ukraine and Georgia. In addition, the Armed Forces of Belarus were involved in combat training of operational encirclement by NATO military forces in the Baltic countries.
The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces fully implemented its plans for training in the same hybrid warfare methods that were used against Ukraine in 2014, now in the territory of Belarus. The Russian exercise scenario supposed that a major part of Belarus was separated from the rest of the country and opposed it as a potential enemy. This increases the probability that a pre-planned scenario could be used for the destabilization of Belarus as the excuse for Russia to deploy a military force into its territory and use all of Belarus as a single military bridgehead.
Russia sees the territory of Belarus only as a buffer zone for possible military operations against the NATO bloc and Ukraine. This is evidenced first of all by the westward advance of the units of the Western Military District of the Russian Armed Forces from their permanent bases, which can only be seen as offensive action. The declarations of the defense ministries of Russia and Belarus about the defensive nature of the exercises were false.
Joint military exercises with Russia on the territory of both countries have become regular events. The number of such exercises is rapidly growing year by year. This negates the significance of Russian claims about the withdrawal from the territory of Belarus of all of their forces redeployed to participate in the Zapad-2017 maneuvers, since in practice units of the Russian Armed Forces are almost permanently present on the territory of Belarus.
Russia and Belarus are building up forces and assets of the single regional grouping of ground troops and of the joint regional air defense system and testing the entire command and control structure of the Russian Armed Forces in the western strategic area. In addition, elements of the use of strategic nuclear weapons have been exercised. The Belarusian military are involved in various exercises that take place under the Russian command. As a result, Belarusian military units achieve operational harmonization with Russian units, which participated in the hostilities in Ukraine and Syria. Considering the above, we see a high level of integration of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus with the Russian Armed Forces, while the Belarusian side is allotted the role of a servant to Russian interests and Russia’s foot soldier.
Below is a stream of interesting facts and data gathered and by InformNapalm community during the preparation, the active and the final phases of the joint Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises Zapad-2017.
According to the report of the central information outlet of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Belarus, the last train with the personnel and equipment of the logistics support unit of the Russian Armed Forces that had participated in the Zapad-2017 exercises was allegedly dispatched to the home station.
A military train of a separate parachute battalion of the 103rd Air Assault Brigade of the Special Operations Forces of the Republic of Belarus was sent to the Strugi Krasnye training grounds in Pskov Oblast of the Russian Federation. The Belarusian unit is to participate in the joint battalion tactical exercises with the 104th Air Assault Regiment of the 76th Air Assault Division of the Russian Armed Forces.
The units of the 104th Air Assault Regiment participated in the occupation of the Crimea and in the hostilities in Donbas. The paratroopers of this regiment also captured Ukrainian drilling rigs in the Black Sea.
The central print media of Russian and Belarusian ministries of defense report (1, 2) about the withdrawal from Belarusian territory of another group of Russian military units that took part in Zapad-2017 military exercise.
Other than these publications, no sources reported this information. Some Russian military units involved in the maneuvers, are possibly still remaining in the Belarusian territory. Also, there are no hard evidence that the air group of Russian Aerospace Forces has returned from the Belarusian territory to its bases.
Photo: (c) exercise.mil.by
At this point, it is clear that the air group of Russian Aerospace Forces, deployed to Belarus to participate in exercises, besides the already identified 10 helicopters, also included several Su-34s and a battlefield reconnaissance aircraft Su-24MR. Two Su-34s have been identified:
- Grey with red tail number 24, RF-95808
- Grey with red tail number 30, RF-95066
It is established that these Su-34s belong to the 47th Separate Combined Air Regiment (military unit 45117, “Baltimor” airfield, Voronezh) of the 105th Combined Air Division. Since 2013, the regiment is temporary stationed at the airfield “Buturlinovka” (Voronezh Oblast) while “Baltimor” undergoes runway repairs, which are planned to be completed in 2019. The Su-34 bombers of this division participated in the military aggression against the Syrian people on Bashar al-Assad regime’s side. In addition, a group of Su-27 fighters from the 159th Combined Air Regiment of this division was deployed and, quite possibly, is still stationed at the 61st Fighter Airbase in Baranovichi.
The special forces unit of Russian Airborne Forces was relocated to Belarus to participate in a special tactical exercise. According to the statement of the Russian Ministry of Defense, the preparation phase for the exercise will last from September 25 to November 8, 2017. As you can see, the trend of virtually permanent stationing of certain military units of the Russian Army in the Belarus territory is still evident and even growing stronger.
On September 20th, the press services of the Russian and Belarusian ministries of defense reported that the active phase of Zapad-2017 Military Exercise has been completed.
Despite the start of relocation of aviation, personnel, and engineering staff of Russian Aerospace Forces declared on September 21, a certain part of the Russian aviation group could remain in the territory of Belarus or could be replaced on a rotation basis. According to the Belarusian Ministry of Defense, one of the first trains with military equipment and personnel of the 4th Kantemirov Tank Division (the 1st Tank Army of Russian Armed Forces) departed on September 22 from the railway station Vereytsi (5 km north-west of Osipovichi, Mogilev Oblast).
We ask our readers to join this monitoring and send us photo and video materials in case you observe maneuvers of the foreign army in the Belarusian territory. We have to be sure that all Russian units involved in the Zapad-2017 exercise in Belarus have actually left the territory of this country, instead of being relocated to other places in the Belarusian territory under the guise of returning to permanent bases.
Additionally, we identified the following helicopters of Russian Aerospace Forces, deployed to Belarus:
- Ka-52, grey with white tail number 45, RF-91337
- Ka-52, grey with white tail number 48, RF-91332
- Mi-35M, grey with white tail number 67, RF-n/a
- Mi-35M, grey with white tail number 68, RF-13013
Probably, the following helicopters are also in the Belarusian territory:
- Mi-28N, camo paint with red tail number 60, RF-13623
- Mi-28N, camo paint with red tail number 62, RF-13625
Photo: (C) mil.ru
The air group of helicopters of Russian Aerospace Forces in Belarus now consists of at least 12 units. Most of the observed helicopters belong to the “Berkuts” aerobatics team from the 344th Center of Combat and Retraining of Army Aircraft Pilots (Torzhok city). Involvement of this aerobatic team, which participates in various events and air shows, and has huge flight experience and fully operational aircraft, suggests the decision of Russian high command to show off during the exercise, primarily for the media, because the involvement of ordinary military pilots with less flight experience and ordinary helicopters considerably increases the risk of a force majeure. One of such force majeures happened a little earlier at Luzhsky Testing Range near St Petersburg: a Ka-52 helicopter launched unguided air-to-ground rockets by mistake toward a group of parked cars. Two vehicles were damaged and two people were badly wounded. It is possible that these people were journalists, invited to film another “show”.
A new type of Russian tanks deployed to Belarus has been identified. These are T-80BV tanks with gas turbine engines. Belarusian army does not possess such tanks. These tanks are called “jets” for their distinctive engine sound. Some of these tanks had to be overhauled and updated and then reenter service with Russian Army in 2017, probably, with the 4th Kantemirov Tank Division of the 1st Tank Army.
The tank with hull number “211” is recorded in the video of Belarusian Ministry of Defense. In the screenshot below you can see the exhaust grills (marked red) that prove that the tank belongs to the “eighties” series.
Photo evidence of Russian tanks’ presence in the Belarusian territory has been found. Modernized T-72B3 tanks of the 1st Tank Army of Russian Armed Forces (Western Military District) were spotted at Borisovsky range.
Photo: (с) stat.mil.ru
It should be noted that T-72B3 tanks, upgraded by Russian “Uralvagonzavod” Engineering (1,2), entered service with Belarusian Army in the beginning of June 2017. It is possible that they also take part in Zapad-2017 Military Exercises.
During Zapad-2017 Military Exercises, the Russian Aerospace Forces suffered a great loss – at the 6951st Guards Air Base (the military town of “Shaykovka”, Kaluga Oblast), as a result of the maneuvering rules violation, a Tu-22M3 strategic bomber (tail number red 20, RF-94233) was damaged. According to preliminary estimates, the aircraft is not recoverable.
Photo: (C) Taras Chmut.
The arrival of Russian military aircraft, personnel, and engineering staff to the airfield of the 50th Combined Aviation Base (Machulishchy) was recorded.
The following Russian strike helicopters, deployed to Belarus, have been identified:
- Mi-28N, grey with white tail number 07, RF-95342
- Mi-28N, grey with white tail number 08, RF-95320
- Mi-28N, grey with white tail number 11, RF-95325
- Ka-52, grey with white tail number 07, RF-91337
- Ka-52, grey with white tail number 51, RF-91341
- Ka-52, camo paint with white tail number 75, RF-n/a, previously spotted during tests in Algeria in 2015.
Most of the spotted helicopters belong to the “Berkuts” aerobatics team from the 344th Center of Combat and Retraining of Army Aircraft Pilots (Torzhok city). This is the only aerobatics team in Russia that performs shows with strike helicopters.
Russian MiG-29SMT fighter jets arrived to the airfield of the 61st Fighter Airbase in Baranovichi.
The Russian multifunctional Su-34 bombers were deployed to the airfield of the 116th Assault Airbase (Lida city). At the moment, it was possible to identify:
- Su-34, red tail number 30, RF-95066.
On the Belarusian Military Glory Day, the democratic community of the country held a massive warning campaign against the Zapad-2017 Military Exercise in Minsk. The approved resolution declares the protest against the involvement of Belarus in a military confrontation against Ukraine and the NATO. It was stated that Zapad-2017 Military Exercise poses a threat to the sovereignty of the country. Also, the support for the constitutional striving for neutrality, and the demand that there should be no foreign troops in Belarus were expressed.
According to belsat.eu, a train with the Russian military equipment spotted earlier in Orsha is now unloading in Vereitsy railway station near Asipovichy in Mahiliow Region.
A news briefing by Lieutenant General Aleksandr Fomin, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense, on the preparations for Zapad-2017 Russian-Belarusian joint military exercises has taken place today. It has been stated that the exercises are focusing on the readiness training and training in the use of force groupings to ensure military security of the Union State.
According to orsha.eu website, a large military equipment convoy passed the railway station of Orsha-Tsentralnaya about 5.00pm on Monday, August 28.
A Youtube user uploaded a clip with the military equipment train convoy passing Tumanovo railway station in Smolensk Oblast towards Belarus. (shooting location). Side numbers and tactical markings on the vehicles have been painted over.
A joint special exercise of logistics brigades of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation is taking place in the Barysawski training ground and the open terrain in Minsk, Viciebsk, and Mahiliow Regions from August 21 till 25.
Personnel of the 2766 fuel base of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus and units of the 69th Logistics Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is focusing on challenges of the special joint exercise in supplying fuel to troops near the settlement of Ramashkava (Viciebsk Region).
Drivers of the automotive battalion of military unit 11385-2 of the 69th Logistics Brigade (located in Mulino in Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast) were identified by Informnapalm when taking part in the ingression of Russian “humanitarian convoys” to Donbas. Click here for more details.
Witnesses are providing information about the arrival of the first Russian military equipment trains in Belarus. This is a photo of a train of 2S19 self-propelled guns in Barysaw (at 54.205646, 28.516549)
This publication was prepared specially for InformNapalm.
Translated by InformNapalm English
An active link to the authors and our project is obligatory for any reprint or further public use of the material.
(Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0)
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