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President Putin Orders Large-Scale Military Drills on Black Sea

RIA Novosti

18:00 28/03/2013

MOSCOW, March 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly ordered a snap large-scale military exercise on Thursday as concerns persist over armed forces combat readiness.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin issued instructions to perform the exercise in the southern Black Sea region at 4:00 a.m.

The unscheduled exercise is the second in the space of two months and follows a major shake-up at the top of a military establishment demoralized by persistent evidence of rampant corruption.

The Black Sea exercise was set to involve up to 7,000 military personnel – including rapid deployment, airborne and special task forces – and more than 30 warships.

Peskov said 36 warships would be drawn from Black Sea bases in Sevastopol and Novorossiisk and that some 250 combat armored vehicles would be used in the drill.

The exercise performed late last month involved the redeployment of an airborne regiment stationed in the central Ivanovo Region by 20 military transport helicopters to the Shagol airfield in the Urals.

Defense officials said 7,000 military personnel and hundreds of pieces of military hardware were ordered into action in the first non-routine check of its type in Russia in two decades.

Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said the drill had exposed numerous shortcomings in preparedness among the armed forces.

Sergei Shoigu, a widely respected Putin ally until recently in charge of the Emergency Situations Ministry, was appointed defense minister in November amid hopes he would implement much-needed reforms.

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