The Zapad military exercises conducted by Russian and Belarusian militaries over the past week have drawn a great deal of attention from world leaders, and with good reason. The last time Russia participated in these large-scale drills, intelligence satellites flying overhead revealed that Russia had understated the size of their military presence in the region by a factor of about nine. The drills that were supposed to include a total of 12,700 or so troops, soon swelled to over 90,000, and only months later, the equipment left behind, as well as the training that took place at Zapad were put into action in the military annexation of Crimea in 2014.
This year, Russia again announced a paltry investment of troops, amounting to no more than 13,000 according to officials that did not want to permit NATO observers to participate in the training cycles as would be mandated by a Cold War era agreement Russia signed, despite violating it in 2013. NATO leaders, reading between the lines, anticipated a similar showing of Russian force to that of Zapad ‘13, expecting as many as 100,000 troops to take part in the event.
Numbers have not yet surfaced as to how many Russian and Belarusian soldiers participated in the exercises, though Russia has been marketing its military might heavily on social media platforms in both official and non-official ways.
One bit of footage Russia would have rather not shown to the public, was of a KA-52 helicopter firing on a crowd of spectators the pilot believed to be a training target.