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When asked how the inspection in Russia’s Western Military District was related to the events in Ukraine, Shoigu said: “Generally speaking, it is not. We do not relate these things in any way.”
“The exercise will take place on Russia’s border with other countries as well, and Ukraine may be among them,” he said, adding that if a similar inspection were carried out on the border with Finland, it would hardly raise any interest in society or mass media.
A total of 110,000 troops are participating in the exercise. “Ninety aircraft, over 110 helicopters, up to 880 tanks, over 1,200 pieces of military hardware and as many as 80 ships and vessels will be involved,” the minister said.
The main purpose of the drill is to practice interoperability in different theatres of war. The exercise will also include a mass helicopter landing operation, Shoigu said.
Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told foreign military attaches that the exercise was being conducted in strict compliance with the Vienna Document 2011. “Russia strictly complies with the Vienna Document 2011. This is why we will be engaging no more than 38,000 personnel for no more than 72 hours,” he said.
“You should not mix up the two figures: the 150,000 I mentioned and 38,000. The latter means 38,000 that fall under the Vienna Document. These include the Army, Airborne Troops, and Marines,” Antonov said.
The Russian Defence Ministry notified the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of the surprise exercise in the Western and Central Military Districts.
“Our international obligations do not require us to inform our partners about such military activities,” Antonov said, adding that by so doing the Defence Ministry was demonstrating its commitment to the policy of openness.
The Defence Ministry also informed Russia’s eastern neighbours about the exercise. “The notice specifies the names of the units, concrete ranges and the tasks we will be solving at each stage of the exercise,” Antonov said.
He stressed that the Defence Ministry would continue such comprehensive surprise inspections and exercises in the future.
“Our surprise inspection is not aimed against any state. It’s a routine activity of the Armed Forces, and we will continue this practice in the future,” he said, adding that this is part of Russia’s plans to improve the combat capability of its Armed Forces.