Russia begins Belarus war games codenamed West 2017

Russia has today kicked off its controversial week-long war games in Belarus and the Baltic, involving thousands of troops and military vehicles.

The maneuvers, called Zapad - meaning 'West' in Russian - has left neighbouring countries worried it is a precursor to an invasion and seen NATO members accuse Moscow of lying about the size of the drills. 

Tensions between Moscow and the West have spiraled since Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and Ukraine is among the nations worried Zapad 2017 could lead to further landgrabs .

It's all a game: Army vehicles are seen driving towards an undisclosed location in Belarus as Zapad 2017 kicks off at several locations in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, Russia and Kaliningrad

It's all a game: Army vehicles are seen driving towards an undisclosed location in Belarus as Zapad 2017 kicks off at several locations in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, Russia and Kaliningrad

The military exercises are now officially underway at several locations in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Russia and Belarus have said that the exercises, which will last until September 20, will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, as well as a large number of military vehicles, war ships and aircrafts.

It will simulate a rebel uprising with 'troops' backed up by a fictional foreign power, widely assumed to be NATO.

However, NATO officials say the number of troops is much larger than Moscow has publicised, closer to 100,000.

By claiming that only 13,000 troops are involved, Russia stays below the international threshold that requires large numbers of outside observers.

Ayay cap'n: Russian military pilots, right, report upon arrival at an airbase in Belarus ahead of the controversial games which started today and will last a week, simulating a rebellion uprising backed by a 'fictional foreign power'

Ayay cap'n: Russian military pilots, right, report upon arrival at an airbase in Belarus ahead of the controversial games which started today and will last a week, simulating a rebellion uprising backed by a 'fictional foreign power'

Big figures: Russia and Belarus claims some 13,000 people are involved in the drills, but NATO officials say they fear it is closer to 100,000  

Big figures: Russia and Belarus claims some 13,000 people are involved in the drills, but

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