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Poland, NATO Troops Hold Drills Amid Security Concerns


The Dragon-17 exercise involves some 17,000 land, air force and navy troops and some 3,500 units of equipment. (file photo)

Polish and other NATO troops have started a major defensive exercise in Poland's north amid concerns raised by military maneuvers recently held by neighboring Russia and Belarus.

The Dragon-17 exercise involves some 17,000 land, air force and navy troops and some 3,500 units of equipment. Cybersecurity is also being tested.

For the first time the biannual drill, which runs through September 29, is being joined by Poland's new Territorial Defense Forces, consisting of civilian volunteers who support regular troops.

Other participating nations are NATO members Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Britain, Slovakia, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, as well as partner nations Georgia and Ukraine.

Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk on September 21 visited the Drawsko Pomorskie test range in northwest Poland, the main site of land drills for Dragon-17.

Dworczyk said the drills were of a defensive nature and contrasted them with the just-ended Zapad (West) 2017 joint Russian-Belarusian maneuvers. Dworczyk said the Zapad exercise had a "very clear offensive trait."

The scenario for the exercise sees the troops reacting to "attempt at taking control of a disputed territory though hybrid actions," Dworczyk said, noting that it was inspired by Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Dworczyk also noted that security experts in Poland and in the region are concerned that Russia may leave some military units in Belarus following the Zapad 2017 maneuvers, which ended on September 20.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP
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