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Russia, Belarus conduct joint drills

(Xinhua)

15:25, September 17, 2011

MOSCOW, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Russian and Belarussian armed forces started joint drills on Friday, said the Russian Defense Ministry.

The "Union Shield 2011" exercises were held in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region and Astrakhan region, both along the Volga river, with the participation of a total of 12,000 soldiers from the two sides, the Interfax news agency reported.

Air defense forces also took part in the week-long drills along with 7,000 Russian and 5,000 Belarussian troops, 100 tanks and 50 warplanes and helicopters, said the Russian Defense Ministry.

The ministry said the drills were aimed at "containing unilaterally the large-scale NATO military activity on the border of NATO and the Union State."

Russia and Belarus formed a loose Union State since 1999.

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