Russia, Belarus trial deadly combat bots in war games

Robot wars: Russia and Belarus trial deadly combat bots and new tactical vehicles in huge war games – as Lukashenko is set to £853m of arms from Putin

  • Russia, Belarus using new combat robots, tactical vehicles in joint war games from Friday until September 16
  • The huge military drills involve 200,000 soldiers, at least 80 aircraft, more than 300 tanks and 15 ships 
  • Officials have said the exercises do not envisage specific nations as adversaries but should be ‘signal’ to West 

Russia used new combat robots and tactical vehicles on the second day of the active main phase of large military drills with its ex-Soviet ally Belarus, the defence ministry said on Saturday.

The ‘Zapad-2021’ war games, which will run until next Thursday on Russia and Belarus’s western flanks including sites close to the European Union’s borders, have alarmed Ukraine and some NATO countries. 

Troops used Platform-M combat robots, which are controlled remotely and armed with grenade launchers and a machine gun, the ministry said in a statement. New Sarmat-2 tactical vehicles have also been used.

Russian news agencies claimed it was the first time such hardware had been used. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko today reviewed the drills amid plans to buy more than $1 billion in arms from Moscow. Putin is expected to review the drills next week.

The live fire drills are the culmination of the ‘Zapad-2021’ war games, and will run until next Thursday on Russia’s and Belarus’s western flanks. Some sites are close to NATO and the European Union’s borders, and their proximity has unsettled neighbours including Ukraine and Poland. 

Officials say the exercises do not envisage specific countries as adversaries. But the chief of Belarus’ general staff, Major-General Viktor Gulevich, said the exercises should be a ‘signal’ to the West of the ‘futility’ to taking ‘a position of strength’ against the two countries. 

Russia used new combat robots and Sarmat-2 tactical vehicles (pictured) on the second day of the active main phase of large military drills with its ex-Soviet ally Belarus, the defence ministry said on Saturday

The Sarmat-2 tactical vehicles (pictured) were flown in on helicopters and driven during joint military drills with Russia and Belarus on Sunday 

Russian media said it was the first time the Sarmat-2 tactical vehicles (pictured, with a mounted gun) had been used in military war games

Troops used Platform-M combat robots, (pictured) which are controlled remotely and armed with grenade launchers and a machine gun, the ministry said in a statement

Russia used new combat robots and tactical vehicles on the second day of the active main phase of large military drills with its ex-Soviet ally Belarus, the defence ministry said on Saturday

An explosion is seen during joint Belarus and Russia military drills, called Zapad-2021, on Sunday with 200,000 troops and more than 80 aircraft taking part

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko observes the military exercise Zapad-2021 staged jointly with Russia at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus

Russian President Vladimir Putin has branded the drills ‘sensible’ give increased NATO activity near the country’s borders and those of its allies.  

Neighbours such as Ukraine and NATO members Poland and Lithuania say such big exercises so close to the frontier risk being provocative.

‘We need to realise that this [a Russian military attack on Estonia] may indeed happen in the coming years,’ Martin Herem, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces said in an interview on Friday evening. 

‘Russia’s goal likely isn’t to occupy us – it does not want to gain control through occupation, but it enjoys instability and influence via instability’. 

The Russian defence ministry said up to 200,000 military personnel, some 80 aircraft and helicopters, up to 15 ships and nearly 300 tanks are taking part.   

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the troops would return to their permanent bases by mid-October. 

Two Belarusian combat helicopters fire as they take part in the Zapad-2021 joint military exercises with Russia on Sunday

Multiple rocket launcher systems fire during joint military exercises with Russia and Belarus which the chief of Belarus’ general staff, Major-General Viktor Gulevich, said the exercises should be a ‘signal’ to the West of the ‘futility’ to taking ‘a position of strength’ against the two countries

Russian paratroopers take part in an airborne assault formation during joint military drills, named ‘Zapad-2021’, with Belarus on Saturday

Belarusian servicemen march during a ceremony to open the ‘Zapad-2021’ joint military drills with Russia on Friday, in a move that has alarmed NATO

A soldier in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast in Russia takes part in huge joint military drills with Russia and Belarus on Friday, with war games set to last until Thursday

A Russian serviceman takes part in huge joint military drills with Belarus, set to include never before used hardware, on Saturday

Russian servicemen take part in joint military drills with Belarus and other Collective Security Treaty Organisation states on September 10, in a move that has alarmed NATO

Russian news agencies have claimed several new items of hardware have been used for the first time during these war games

The drills involve live fire and mark the culmination of a bigger three-month exercise. New Sarmat-2 tactical vehicles have also been used, Russian media said

Troops used Platform-M combat robots, which are controlled remotely and armed with grenade launchers and a machine gun, the ministry said in a statement

The drills have alarmed NATO because Belarus is part of quasi buffer zone between Europe and Russia, bordering the country to the east 

The manoeuvres are held every four years, but this year’s drill has been seen as a particular signal of Russia’s support for Belarus and its leader Lukashenko, who has been ostracised by the West for cracking down on dissent.

Russia sees Belarus as a strategically important buffer to its west, and helped to keep Lukashenko in power with loans and political backing while he crushed a popular uprising last year.  

‘This is one of the most important training events for the armed forces, which takes place against the backdrop of ongoing hybrid aggression by the West against Belarus and Russia,’ Lukashenko was quoted by the Belta news agency as saying.

An image published by Belta showed Lukashenko in green military uniform watching the drills at Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground.

Lukashenko also said Belarus planned to buy Russian arms worth more than $1 billion and was negotiating supplies of S-400 air defence missile systems. 

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov said the drills were purely defensive in nature and would give Moscow and Minsk a chance to improve the way their respective militaries work together.  

Top military leaders from the two countries attended the opening ceremony of the war games, called ‘Zapad-2021’, in western Russia where flags were raised and speeches given on Friday. 

Military personnel from Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia were present ahead of the drills, which they are participating in, the Russian defence ministry said at the time. 

The Russian defence ministry said up to 200,000 military personnel, some 80 aircraft and helicopters, up to 15 ships and nearly 300 tanks have taken part

The military drills come as Minsk has cosied up to Moscow in recent months, with Putin offering to send troops to Belarus to help quell large demonstrations that broke out in August 2020 following a dispute election that officials said gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office

Eight Belarusian fighter jets fly during the military exercise Zapad-2021 joint military drills with Russia on Sunday

Russian President Vladimir Putin has branded the drills ‘sensible’ give increased NATO activity near the country’s borders and those of its allies

The manoeuvres are held every four years, but this year’s drill has been seen as a particular signal of Russia’s support for Belarus and its leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has been ostracised by the West for cracking down on dissent

Russian service members attend a ceremony opening the mass military drills named ‘Zapad-2021’ at Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus on Friday

Russian service members holding the country’s tricolor attend an opening ceremony of the ‘Zapad-2021’ joint military drills in Nizhny Novgorod Region on Friday

567 PRI*198908300 Belarusian service members attend a ceremony opening the military exercise Zapad-2021 staged by the the armed forces of Russia and Belarus

Monoglian service members take part in a parade during the opening ceremony of the ‘Zapad-2021’ joint military exercise with Russia and Belarus

Kazakh service members march during a ceremony opening the military exercise ‘Zapad-2021’ in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on Friday

Indian service members attend a ceremony opening the military exercise Zapad-2021 staged by the the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at the Mulino training ground in Nizhny Novgorod Region

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