Russia has put its troops on combat alert

Donald Tusk

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday that troops were scrambled to the drill zone and put on high alert earlier in the day to mark the beginning of the military maneuver involving the staff of the Southern Military District.

Russia has put its troops on combat alert across the country’s southwestern territories amid massive military drills meant to test the readiness of the military.

Airborne troops and military transport aviation as well as the navy are also slated to take part in the exercise, Shoigu said during a meeting with top military commanders, adding that the war games are intended to test the ability of the troops to respond to extremist threats and other challenges.

He said the maneuver will include redeployment of air force units while bombing runs will also be carried out at shooting ranges.

Russia’s Southern Military District includes troops stationed in Crimea as well as forces in the North Caucasus and southwestern regions near the border with Ukraine.

The drills are the latest in a series of high-profile war games by Russia amid intensifying tensions with the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

Last September, Russia launched its largest military drill of 2015, involving 7,000 items of military equipment and some 95,000 infantry, navy and air force units.

Relations between Russia and the West sharply cooled after Crimea’s separation from Ukraine and reunification with the Russia following a referendum in March 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a document last month, declaring NATO a threat to the country’s national security. The document is a response to a rising military presence by NATO countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

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