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Russian, Kazakh pilots to hone live-firing skills prior to CSTO drills

RIA Novosti

06:28 22/10/2010

MOSCOW, October 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russian and Kazakh combat pilots will take part on Friday in live-firing exercises in preparation for the upcoming large-scale exercises of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force drills will take place on October 25-29 at the Chebarkul training ground in Russia's Urals region of Chelyabinsk.

"On October 22, pilots of the Russian Su-24 and Su-27 aircraft and Mi-24 helicopters together with Kazakh Su-25 pilots will conduct drills with live firing at the Chebarkul training grounds in the Central military district," a spokesman for the ministry said on Thursday.

The upcoming CSTO drills will involve 1,700 servicemen, 250 armored vehicles and over 30 combat aircraft and helicopters.

The CSTO is a security grouping comprising the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

Five of the seven members signed an agreement on the creation of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force in February 2009. Belarus, which initially refrained from signing the deal because of a trade dispute with Russia, joined later last year.

The CSTO members say the rapid reaction force is designed to improve the security of the CSTO members against existing and potential threats, including terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and natural disasters, and to enhance the organization's role in ensuring international security.

However, many observers see the creation of a powerful military contingent in former Soviet Central Asia by members of the Russian-dominated security grouping as a bid to counterbalance NATO.

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