Russia rejects allegations it will use war games to launch an invasion

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[August 29, 2017]    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday joint war games with Belarus would be purely defensive in nature and rejected what it said were false allegations it might use the drills as a springboard to launch invasions of Poland, Lithuania or Ukraine.

Servicemen take part in the joint war games Zapad-2013 (West-2013), attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, at the Khmelevka range on Russia's Baltic Sea in the Kaliningrad Region, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

A total of almost 13,000 Russian and Belarussian servicemen and almost 700 pieces of military hardware will be used in the Zapad 2017 exercises next month, Russian news agencies cited Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin as saying.

Those numbers were in line with international rules, he was cited as saying.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance will closely watch the exercises and has called for them to be held in an open and legal manner.

Belarussian Deputy Defence Minister Oleg Belokonev said on Tuesday that all troops and equipment brought into Belarus for the war games would be withdrawn afterwards, the Interfax news agency reported.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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