Russia begins huge 'Zapad 2017' military drills

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MINSK, Belarus (AP)-- Military officials in Belarus are seeking to calm Western fears about major war games taking place with Russia, hours before they are due to get underway.

Oleg Voinov, an adviser to the Belarusian Defense Minister, told journalists Thursday that "we are not threatening anyone."

Despite assurances from Minsk and Moscow, the Zapad (West) 2017 maneuvers have caused concern in NATO. Some members of the alliance, including the Baltic States and Poland have questioned Moscow's real intentions and said the number of troops involved could be much higher than official figures.

Russia and Belarus have said that the exercises, which will last until Sept. 20, will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops.

Tensions between Moscow and the West have spiraled since Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

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