President Vladimir Putin has ordered snap military drills involving 150,000 personnel and hundreds of aircraft and naval vessels to ensure “security in Russia’s southwest”, according to the defence ministry.
Friday’s drills aim to test the Russian army’s readiness to ensure “security in Russia’s southwest where a serious threat of terrorism remains” as well as prepare for the Caucasus-2020 war games, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying in a statement.
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“In accordance with the decision of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces snap exercises are being conducted by troops of the Southern and Western military districts,” he said.
The drills involve nearly 150,000 personnel including airborne troops and marine infantry of the Northern and Pacific Fleets, the ministry said.
The exercises also involve more than 400 aircraft and 100 vessels and will be conducted in the Black and Caspian Seas, among other places.
As an answer to the Russian drills, neighbouring Ukraine said on Friday it would also conduct military exercises, which it hoped NATO partners would join, as an insurance against any resulting escalation on its eastern borders.
Ukraine’s Defence Minister Andriy Taran told the parliament the exercises would include anti-aircraft fire and would be held at the end of September in southern Ukraine.
Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been tense since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed a separatist armed uprising in eastern Ukraine that remains active.
Clashes between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces have killed more than 13,000 people since 2014, despite a ceasefire agreement struck in 2015.
“This asymmetric response will show the readiness of the armed forces of Ukraine to give a worthy rebuff to any attempts by the Russian Federation to exacerbate the situation or start large-scale hostilities,” Taran said.
He said Kyiv would invite NATO countries to join the event.