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Defence minister: Czechs to join exercise in Lithuania

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Prague, Sept 16 (CTK) – The Czech military will send roughly 150 soldiers to Lithuania for an exercise to be held in the Baltics at the beginning of next year where they will be for three months, Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) told journalists on Friday.

The joint one-year exercise was agreed on by the Baltic and Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary) countries for fear of Russia.

However, due to capacity reasons, Czech soldiers will not yet join the building of NATO multinational battalions the alliance will send to Poland and the Baltics, Defence Ministry spokesman Petr Medek said.

The ministry is considering contributing with a Czech unit after 2017, he added.

In the first half of the year, the V4 countries are to hold a joint one-year exercise in the Baltic countries. The former will be sending their troops gradually to the area. The Czech unit is the first to do so.

“In the first three months of next year, Czech soldiers will be in Lithuania,” Stropnicky said.

“The exercise will include the transfer of soldiers and equipment from the Czech Republic to the Baltics and joint training with the military of Lithuania,” Stropnicky said.

Medek said this would be a rotating exercise activity of V4 countries within the NATO measures with a view to supporting “exposed allies at NATO’s eastern wing.”

He said a task force with roughly 150 people would leave for the country.

The exercise is yet to be approved by the government.

NATO has decided that for fear of the Russian policy, it will send four multinational battalions to the Baltics, to be headed by the USA, Britain, Germany and Canada.

Further allies will contribute with “supportive elements” to complete the units.

“The Czech Republic wants to join the effort. However, at present it does not have the free capacities or a fully trained unit,” Medek said.

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