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Officially, the move is aimed at providing military security against terrorist threats in the south west of Russia – but the proximity of the troops to Ukraine will not go unnoticed in the West. The troops are taking part in a snap combat readiness check General Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Defense Minister Army, announced yesterday.
A total of 106 warships, more than 26,000 weapon systems and 414 aircraft from Russia’s Southern and Western Military Districts, the Airborne Force and the marine infantry of the Northern and Pacific Fleets are taking part in the drills
Mr Shoigu said: “The check stipulates holding 56 tactical exercises with the troops.
“A total of 35 training grounds and camps and 17 naval ranges in the Black and Caspian Seas will be involved.
“Overall, the surprise check has brought together 149,755 personnel, 26,820 items of armament and military hardware, 414 aircraft and 106 warships and support vessels.”
Mr Shoigu added: “The results of training measures held should be taken into account in assessing the level of the preparedness of military large units and formations for taking part in the Kavkaz-2020 [Caucasus-2020] strategic exercise scheduled for September.”
Mr Putin himself had personally ordered the exercises, Mr Shoigu said.
He explained: “In compliance with a decision by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces, a snap check has begun for the troops of the Southern and Western Military Districts, some large units of the Central Command, the Airborne Force and marine infantry of the Northern and Pacific Fleets.”
Mr Shoigu said the drills were intended to assess the ability of the troops to respond to “terrorist threats” and to prepare for Kavkaz-2020.
He added he had ordered the Russian military’s General Staff to organise the check and control of the troops’ operations.
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Working groups will be set up to check military command centers, troops and forces involved in the drills.
The commanders-in-chief of the various military branches, the commander of the Airborne Force plus the heads of military command centers will direct the preparations.
Ukraine is a former USSR republic with declared independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In 2014, Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimea region in the Black Sea, declaring it to be a part of Russia, with both the US and the E sanctions imposing sanctions as a result.
Since then, relations between the two countries have been characterised by heightened tensions.
In 2018, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) coast guard captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels trying to pass from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the narrow Kerch Strait.
Furthermore, Russian separatists are continuing to wage a campaign of insurgency in the Donbass region of the country.
A statement on the Council for Foreign Relation’s Global Conflict Tracker website says: “The conflict in Ukraine risks further deterioration of US-Russia relations and greater escalation if Russia expands its presence in Ukraine or into NATO countries.
“Russia’s actions have raised wider concerns about its intentions elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and a Russian incursion into a NATO country would solicit a response from the United States as a NATO ally.
“The conflict has heightened tensions in Russia’s relations with both the United States and Europe, complicating the prospects for cooperation elsewhere including on issues of terrorism, arms control, and a political solution in Syria.”
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