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Post-Soviet states to hold military drills in Kazakhstan

RIA Novosti

20:36 01/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) - Over 7,000 service personnel from member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will take part in large-scale regional security drills in Kazakhstan, the Russian military said on Thursday.

The exercise of the CSTO collective rapid reaction force will be held at Kazakhstan's Matybulak training grounds on October 2-15, and involve units from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

"Kazakhstan has never hosted military exercises on such a large scale with the simultaneous involvement of over 7,000 troops," a Russian Airborne Troops spokesman said.

"All the participants in the exercises - operational commands, military contingents and special force units - have arrived at the training grounds," the official said.

According to the CSTO Secretariat, the exercise is aimed at practicing the deployment of the collective rapid reaction force in crisis situations on the territory of CSTO member states.

The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. However, Belarus and Uzbekistan refused to join the collective rapid reaction force structure.

Analysts say the creation of a powerful military contingent in Central Asia reflects Moscow's drive to make the CSTO a pro-Russian military bloc, rivaling NATO forces in Europe.

Russia's security strategy until 2020, recently approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, envisions the CSTO as "a key mechanism to counter regional military challenges and threats."

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