Russia begins month-long military drills in Urals
Iran Press TV
Wed Mar 4, 2015 11:13AM
Russia has launched month-long military drills in three regions of the Urals, involving 4,500 servicemen, as the country is boosting its defense capabilities amid NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.
The Russian Defense Ministry released a statement on Wednesday, saying the drills will include "more than 30 controlled exercises with rocket strikes and firing artillery," using Grad and Uragan rocket complexes.
The ministry added that half of the drills will be conducted at night in the regions of Kemerovo, Chelyabinsk and Orenburg.
The war games come as Russia has announced plans to boost the country's military capabilities. On Monday, Russia's navy chief, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, said Moscow plans to expand its naval fleet with 50 vessels this year.
In January, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the Russian military is set to receive this year some 700 armored and 1,550 other vehicles, 126 planes, 88 helicopters, and two Iskander-M missile systems.
NATO expansion in Eastern Europe
The decision to strengthen Russia's defense capabilities comes as the Western military alliance NATO plans to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine.
The United States and its European allies accuse Russia of destabilizing Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusations.
The defense ministers of NATO's 28 member states agreed on February 5 to establish six new command and control posts in the Eastern European countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
NATO also decided to set up a new headquarters in western Poland to support northeastern member states as well as a similar site in Romania for members in southeastern Europe.
In 2014, NATO forces held some 200 military exercises, with the alliance's General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg having promised that such drills would continue.
Moscow has repeatedly condemned NATO's exercises and military buildup toward its borders.
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