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Russia set to hold more drills to counter ‘threats to national security’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian troops are seen during a military exercise. (File photo)

Russia is set to conduct military drills in different areas across the country to counter “threats to national security,” as Ukraine and NATO countries are holding “destabilizing” war games near the Russian border.

Citing the Russian National Guard, the TASS news agency reported on Friday that the drills — dubbed the Zaslon-2021 — would “take place in order to check the forces’ readiness.”

“The exercise is expected to involve a complex of training tasks, aimed at elimination of threats to national and public security of Russia,” the National Guard said in a statement.

The announcement follows a drill by Russian warships in the strategic waters of the Black Sea on Thursday.

The Russian warships carried out a live-fire training exercise in the waters, as Ukraine and NATO countries held the so-called Sea Breeze 2021 drills in the same wider area. Moscow, which has called for the Western drills to be canceled, has said it will act to protect its national security if necessary.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement of Thursday that NATO was purposefully destabilizing the situation along Russia’s border.

“The Black Sea space is consistently being transformed by Washington and its allies from an area of cooperation into an area of violent confrontation,” said the ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova at a news briefing on Thursday. “This demonstrates NATO’s aggressive course toward Russia.”

The drills follow a spike in tensions between NATO and Russia, after the latter said last week that it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of a British warship to chase it out of territorial waters in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea.

Britain began deploying naval assets to the Black Sea in the spring to apply pressure on Russia and signal solidarity with Ukraine.

Crimea declared independence from Ukraine in March 2014, and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum. That sparked tensions between Kiev and the West on the one side and Russia on the other.

In a separate statement, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it was tracking an Italian navy frigate after it entered the Black Sea on Thursday.

The Western war games will last two weeks and involve about 5,000 military personnel from NATO and other allies. Around 30 ships and 40 aircraft, along with US missile destroyer USS Ross and the US Marine Corps are also taking part.


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