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Massive Military Drill Under Way In Russia's Far East

A massive military exercise is under way in Russia, which is believed to be the largest of its kind in the post-Soviet period. (file photo)
A massive military exercise is under way in Russia, which is believed to be the largest of its kind in the post-Soviet period. (file photo)
A massive military-readiness drill has been taking place in Russia's Far East.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the surprise drill on July 12 to check the alert status of all forces in Russia's Eastern Military District.

The exercise is thought to be the largest of its kind in the post-Soviet period. It includes naval forces, strategic bomber aircraft, missile-defense teams, tactical and strategic missiles, infantry, and armored vehicles.

In all, some 160,000 soldiers, 1,000 tanks, 130 aircraft, and 70 naval vessels have been participating.

An unspecified number of Tu-95MS strategic nuclear bomber aircraft reportedly were being readied for combat missions at an airbase in the Amur region. An armored brigade with some 100 tanks made a 1,100-kilometer rail journey from Buryatia to the Tsugol testing ground in Chita Oblast.

Tank commander Dmitry Manyukin told the Russian TV news station Rossia 24 on July 14 that his company's final objectives in the exercise had not yet been issued in order to test the ability of Russian troops to respond quickly to freshly received orders.

"The peculiarity [of this drill] is that [although] we deployed here 24 hours ... it hasn't yet been disclosed to us where we will move from here and what we will be ordered to accomplish," he said.

According to Manyukin, the emphasis on being prepared for rapid deployment was being emphasized by the Defense Ministry in Moscow.

"Since the appointment of the new Defense Minister [Sergei Shoigu], combat readiness has been treated very seriously," he said. "Very strict demands have been put in place for combat readiness ever since."

The 83rd Airborne Brigade has been ordered from its base in Ussuriisk to Sakhalin Island, where an amphibious assault will be carried out in coordination with assault ships "Oslyabya" and "Nikolai Vilkov" assault ships.

A mobile radiation, chemical, and biological defense brigade has also been taking part in the exercise.

Putin has said he might personally participate in the drill, which is scheduled to end on July 20.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on July 14 that all forces participating in the drill "are in top combat alert." He said Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov is in the Eastern Military District was overseeing the exercises.

Shoigu indicated that 562 train carriages have been transporting about 320 tons of equipment and 25 transport flights have carried more than 1,000 troops.

More than 1,000 reservists have been called to duty to participate in the preparedness drills.

In March, Putin ordered a snap readiness drill involving Russia's forces in the Black Sea region. The Defense Ministry reported that forces in all of those exercises had fulfilled their objectives.

With reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and RIA-Novosti
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