Russian troops on high alert as part of massive drills

2016-02-08 17:56


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Moscow - President Vladimir Putin has scrambled troops across southwestern Russia for large-scale military drills intended to test the troops' readiness amid continuing tensions with the West.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that military units were put on combat alert early on Monday, marking the launch of the exercise that involves troops of the Southern Military District.

The district includes troops stationed in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as well as forces in the North Caucasus and southwestern regions near the border with Ukraine.

Shoigu said the manoeuvres will also engage airborne troops and military transport aviation, as well as the navy. He noted that the drills are intended to check the troops' ability to respond to extremist threats and other challenges.

According to Shoigu, who spoke at a meeting with the top military brass, the war games would include redeployment of air force units and bombing runs at shooting ranges.

The exercises are the latest in a series of major drills intended to strengthen the military's readiness. They have continued despite the nation's economic downturn.

Even though a drop in global oil prices has drained the government's coffers and helped drive the economy into recessions, the Kremlin has continued to spend big on the military, funding the purchase of hundreds of new aircraft, tanks and missiles.

Russia has demonstrated its resurgent military might with its air campaign in Syria, which helped President Bashar Assad's military win a series of victories in recent weeks. The military used the Syrian operation to test new types of weapons in actual combat for the first time, including long-range air- and sea-launched cruise missiles.

The air blitz in Syria has badly strained Russia's relations with Turkey, which shot down a Russian warplane at the border with Syria in November. The latest drills could be part of muscle flexing amid the tensions with Ankara.

They also come at a time when a peace deal intended to end fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine appears to be in jeopardy amid increasingly frequent clashes in recent weeks.

Read more on:    russia  |  syria

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