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Ross Logan — The Express Aug 31, 2017

A Russian Buyan-class corvette departs for the Baltic. Click to enlarge

RUSSIA has sent a fleet of more than 70 warships to Baltic Sea for a series military drills to “assess their readiness” in the event of a full naval alert.

Vladimir Putin’s navy has deployed 2,000 crewmen to northern Europe, primarily as preparation for upcoming war games with Belarus in September.

The vessels on show include “corvettes, large amphibious ships, small rocket ships and small anti-submarine ships,” according to Western Military District spokesman Roman Martov, who spoke to state news agency RIA Novosti.

Mr Martov told a different news agency: “The check is aimed at assessing the possibility to put the navy on full alert as well as [at assessing] the alert forces’ capability to implement their tasks.”

Next month Russia and Belarus will stage a military simulation whereby the two sides are attacked in the Baltic Sea from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The drill could be viewed as an ominous warning to Russia’s neighbours who have long feared a Moscow-led annexation similar to Crimea in 2014.

President Putin has previously accused neighbouring NATO-affiliated countries of being the aggressors, defending similar military drills as acts of dissuasion.

Earlier this month Russia sent 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

Although it had been planned for months, the move was seen as further evidence of Russia again asserting itself on the global stage in defiance of fresh sanctions imposed by the US.

Yesterday Russia denied it is planning to invade Europe as President Putin prepares to deploy thousands of troops on the border.

However, Poland has warned there is a “risk” of an “aggressive scenario” during the week-long Zapad exercise, which begins on September 14.

According to Russian and Belarussian officials, under 13,000 soldiers will take place – a threshold which means international observers do not need to be present.

However, experts are concerned a far higher number which actually take part, with some warning as many as 100,000 soldiers could descend on the country.

Further evidence of Russia’s military might came in the form of the bizarre International Army Games, held in Siberia earlier this month.

More than 4,000 soldiers and personnel from 28 countries took part in the event, including China, Iran, Egypt and Zimbabwe.

The games featured a range of army disciplines, including the Tank Biathlon, largely regarded as the main event.


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