Russia Begins War Games Near Georgia – World War III Gearing Up?
The Sydney Morning Herald / June 29, 2009
Russia has mobilised thousands of troops in the North Caucasus in sweeping war games aimed at warning foes that its military remains alert since fighting a war with Georgia in the area last year. Georgia swiftly condemned the exercises as “dangerous” and accused Moscow of seeking to stoke tensions in the region.
“Holding such large-scale exercises in this region… is dangerous and is playing with fire. This is aimed at further increasing tensions in the region,” Georgia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Nalbandov, told AFP on Monday.
Dubbed Caucasus 2009, the week-long exercises are just north of where Russia and Georgia fought over the pro-Moscow rebel region of South Ossetia. The war games are seen as Moscow’s response to recent NATO exercises in Georgia and experts say they are meant as an admonishment to Georgia, which Russia says is rearming its military. About 8,500 troops are participating in the exercises and up to 200 tanks, 450 armoured cars and 250 artillery pieces of various types, according to the Russian defence ministry.
The war game focus on counter-terrorism and the defence of strategic targets, the ministry said, and will run until July 6 – the day US President Barack Obama arrives for a much anticipated summit in Moscow.
“The aim of the exercises is to establish the actual state of battle readiness and troop mobilisation deployed in Russia’s southwest region,” local military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Bobrun told Russian news agencies.
The exercises will involve more troops than the Caucasus 2008 war games and include units from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and its airforce. Some 8,000 soldiers took part in last year’s manoeuvres, which wrapped up shortly before the Russia-Georgia war broke.
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