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Iran Press TV

Russia launches air defense drills amid tensions with West

Iran Press TV

Thu Mar 5, 2015 5:2PM

The Russian military is holding massive military exercises in the country's southeast amid Moscow's rising tensions with the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

According to Russia's military officials on Thursday, the Russian army kicked off the air defense drills in the country's Southern Military District, which encompasses regions near the Crimean Peninsula and neighboring Ukraine.

"The crews drilled the most complicated elements of flight proficiency training, like takeoffs and landings in adverse weather conditions and application of air-launched incapacitation devices at ground targets on a range," said Colonel Igor Klimov, an official spokesman for Russia's air force.

The Russian Defense Ministry said over 2,000 troops and 500 weapons systems, including strategic bombers of the Tupolev-95MS and Tupolev-160 families, have taken part in the military maneuver which is to continue for more than a month.

Russia-West accusatory rhetoric

The maneuvers are being held as Russia and the West have stepped their accusatory rhetoric over the chaotic situation in Ukraine.

On Thursday, the NATO deputy secretary-general claimed Russia still has a military presence in violence-wracked eastern Ukraine.

"Russian soldiers are fighting and dying in large numbers in eastern Ukraine," said Alexander Vershbow in the Latvian capital city of Riga.

His comments came a day after US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland (shown below) reiterated Washington's claims about Moscow's military assistance to pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine.

Russian "President (Vladimir) Putin's aim seems to be to turn Ukraine into a failed state and to suppress and discredit alternative voices in Russia," said Nuland in an apparent reference to the recent assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition figure, in Moscow.

However, Russia's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich strongly rejected the allegations about dispatching troops to Ukraine, adding, "These figures, which are plucked out of the air, of course demoralize and disorientate the international community."

Moscow-West frayed ties

The Moscow-West relations have cooled sharply after Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea joined the Russian Federation following a referendum in March 2014.

Relations were strained further after Ukraine launched military operations in mid-April 2014 to silence pro-Russia protests in the country's mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine.

The US and NATO accuse Moscow of involvement in the turmoil in eastern Ukraine and have imposed a series of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow, however, rejects the accusation.


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