#ZapadWatch: Exercise Slavic Brotherhood 2017

First snapshots of Russia-Belarus-Serbia “anti-terror” exercise

(Source: Russian Ministry of Defense)

On June 6, the third annual Slavic Brotherhood exercise between Russia, Belarus, and Serbia kicked off at the Brest training area (Muchavec military range) in Belarus, fewer than 10 kilometers away from the border with Poland and 50 kilometers from Ukraine.

The opening ceremony was held on June 6 outside Brest, where the flags of the three participating nations were raised.

According to pro-Kremlin outlet rubaltic.ru, the exercises are to last ten days and be split in two parts. The first part, starting June 6, will focus on forming a multinational brigade and conducting teamwork exercises. The second part, set to begin June 12, will involve combat training to fight terrorists and “stabilize societies.”

The drill reportedly brings together more than 300 servicemen from Russia’s 76th Air Assault Division based in Pskov, 400 servicemen from Belarus’ 38th Guards Air Assault Brigade, and 50 servicemen from Serbia’s 63rd Parachute Battalion Special Brigade.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the scenario of the exercise is multinational response to a “terrorist attack.” The second phase of the exercise is to involve the multinational brigade establishing control over the occupied area to conduct counter-terrorism operations, secure the critical infrastructure, and free the local residents.

“Active phase of ‘Slavic Brotherhood 2017’ ongoing near Brest.” (Source: Russian Ministry of Defense)

The “terrorist” attack in question is clearly envisaged to be on a large scale and involve significant ground combat. This puts Slavic Brotherhood in the context of such large-scale operations as the Russian campaign in Syria, which is also branded as being against “terrorists.” It is therefore best understood as a counter-insurgency exercise.

The exercise is worrying Belarus’ neighbors. Ukraine has put its armed forces on high alert as a response to the drills. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense spokesperson Andrey Lysenko said this is part of Russia’s “continued attempts to intimidate both Ukraine and Western partners.”

This year, only one social media user has so far posted pictures from the exercise. The two pictures show half a dozen paratroopers landing in Muhavets landfill.

Archived on June 7, 2017. (Source: Ilya Shavko / VK)
Archived on June 7, 2017. (Source: Ilya Shavko / VK)

Official photos reveal the military vehicles and other equipment used in the exercise.

Light armored vehicle — Volat MZKT-490100–10 4x4 fitted with tactical UAV and remotely operated weapon station. (Source: VoenTV / VK)
BMD- 2 airborne infantry armored fighting vehicle (Source: Современная Армия России / VK)
Multi-purpose helicopter Mi-8MTV-5 (Source: Современная Армия России / VK)

The @DFRLab will continue to monitor developments around Slavic Brotherhood, and around the much larger-scale Russian military exercise Zapad-2017, scheduled to be held in Belarus later this year. If you or any other #DigitalSherlocks see anything on the ground or online related to the exercises, join the conversation using #ZapadWatch.