The joint strategic exercise of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia Zapad 2017 started in Belarus. Over 12,000 military personnel are taking part in the exercise with Russia supplying about one third of the troops. The Belarusian part of the exercise will also involve about 140 combat tanks, up to 150 artillery units and multiple-launch rocket systems, over 40 aircraft and helicopters. The Defense Ministry has reiterated the army exercise is purely defensive. A huge number of the accredited mass media outlets and foreign observers demonstrate its openness and transparency. During Zapad 2017 Belarus will provide six training areas and two grounds. The exercise will be held until 20 September. Before the end of the month the military will return to the places of permanent deployment.