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Russia has no intention to explain itself to NATO over Zapad 2021 military exercise – Slutsky

MOSCOW. Sept 3 (Interfax) – Russia has no intention to provide NATO with data on its joint military exercise Zapad (West) 2021 with Belarus, given the alliance’s activities near its border and the level of their relations, the head of the State Duma foreign affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, said.

"The North-Atlantic alliance unilaterally downgraded its relations with Russia. It’s their choice. But, with this tonality, Russia definitely has no obligation to answer to anyone, especially considering the U.S. air defense systems deployed in Poland and the occasional redeployment of U.S. troops within the immediate proximity of Russian borders," Slutsky said on Telegram on Friday.

He was commenting on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s calls on Russia to provide data on Zapad 2021, which worries the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine. Stoltenberg was quoted by Western media as telling Russia to behave predictably and transparently and disclose the number of participating troops.

Russia’s Defense Ministry already explained that, "certain episodes of the drills, which fall under the 2011 Vienna Document, will involve no more than 6,400 troops," Slutsky said. That is less than the required minimum of 13,000 troops at which point monitors must be invited.

The Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2021 strategic exercise is due to be held on September 9-15.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the opening ceremony on September 9 will take place at the Mulino (Nizhny Novgorod region) and Obuz-Lesnovsky (Brest region, Belarus) ranges.