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Russia stages air force drills in Crimea

Russian Sukhoi Su-27

Russia staged large-scale aviation drills at the Crimea peninsula this week with crews from Aerospace Forces from four Russian military districts and the Northern Fleet taking part.

The Aviadarts 2019 air drills are held at Chauda training ground some 50 kilometers from the Black Sea resort town of Feodosia between May 24 and June 9. The drills feature almost sixty air crews of Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets as well as helicopters competing in hitting various targets and performing manoeuvres.

Russian Defense Ministry said over 5,000 people came to watch the demonstration part of the drills branded Aviamix on Saturday (June 1). The spectators saw flyovers of Sukhoi Su-35C jets, Su-34 jets dropping concrete-piercing bombs and Berkuts aerobatic helicopter group firing projectiles and performing stunts in the air.

Ties between Moscow and the rest of Europe have deteriorated since 2014, when Crimea rejoined Russia.

The rejoining of Crimea to Russia came following deep political changes in Kiev where a pro-Western movement staged weeks of street protests that led to the ouster of the pro-Russia government.

People in Crimea and in the industrial eastern territories of Ukraine, areas which are dominated by ethnic Russians, effectively refused to endorse the new administration in Kiev. Crimea decided to rejoin Russia in a referendum in March 2014 and two provinces in the east revolted by establishing self-declared republics.

Pro-Russians have turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east — collectively known as the Donbass — into self-proclaimed republics.

The West and Kiev lambast the reunification as annexation of the territory by Russia, accusing Moscow of having a hand in the bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moscow, however, strongly dismisses both accusations.

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