Russia launches military drills in south
Iran Press TV
Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:56PM
Russia has started major military exercises in the country's south amid tensions with the West over the ongoing crisis in neighboring Ukraine.
Over 8,000 ground troops kicked off the maneuvers in regions including southern Russia, the Crimean Peninsula, and the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russian news agency Ria Novosti cited officials from Russia's Defense Ministry as saying on Thursday.
Russia's Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet conducted separate exercises by using military planes to simulate an attack on its missile-carrying ships.
The war games, which are scheduled to last until early April, are reportedly among the largest held in recent times.
The military exercises are taking place as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is conducting multinational naval drills in the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula.
The exercises, which began on March 10, involve NATO naval rapid reaction forces and see the participation of the USS Vicksburg, a US guided missile cruiser, as well as vessels from six other participating states – Canada, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.
The moves come as the Moscow-West relations have been extremely tense in recent months. The West accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, saying the Russian intervention poses a security threat to Ukraine and all other neighboring states. Russia has strongly denied the allegations.
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have been hit by deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April last year to crush pro-Russia protests there.
More than 6,000 people have died in the conflict, the UN says. Around 1.5 million people have been also forced from their homes over the past months of the turmoil.
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