A massive air defence drill is scheduled to be held at Kapustin Yar, a testing range 280 miles east of the Ukrainian border, RIA Novosti reports.
The drill is slated to last about a month and will require 3,500 soldiers and 1,000 pieces of military hardware.
“It is for the first time that all air defence units from the district, including coastal defenses of the Northern Fleet, have gathered in one place,” said the district’s spokesman, Col. Oleg Kochetkov.
This drill will be the largest-ever held by air defence forces in Russia’s Western Military District. Despite the fact that the drill is coming amid a standoff with Ukraine, Kochetkov said the drills were part of the routine combat training cycle.
The military drills will culminate in live-fire tests involving multiple air defence systems.
The drills are obviously being held at a questionable moment. Tensions are mounting as the new Crimean parliament voted unanimously to become part of Russia. This vote will be put to a popular referendum in Crimea on March 16.
The U.S. announced plans to send planes to the Baltic states to help bolster NATO’s air patrols over the region. Joint combat pilot training exercises between Poland and the U.S. are set to be expanded.
The U.S. Navy is also sending a guided-missile destroyer to the Black Sea, although the Navy sought to reassure in a statement that the deployment was routine.
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