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US Army Chief Says Russia War Games Broke Observer Rules

Military helicopters fire during the Zapad (West) 2017 Russia-Belarus military exercises at the Borisovsky range in Borisov, Belarus, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Military helicopters fire during the Zapad (West) 2017 Russia-Belarus military exercises at the Borisovsky range in Borisov, Belarus, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

BRUSSELS — The U.S. Army's commander in Europe says Russia broke up its Zapad war games with Belarus into parts to avoid having international monitors watch the weeklong exercises last month.

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said Monday that the two countries deployed "way over 12,700" personnel, the limit beyond which Europe's OSCE security organization should be allowed to send observers.

Hodges said: "My guess is that there probably were over 40,000 service members."

He told reporters at NATO headquarters that Russia and Belarus "broke it up into all these little exercises" but that "these were all connected, because this was a whole of government effort."

Russia's defense ministry said the Zapad exercises would involve 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems and 10 warships.

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