MOSCOW (Reuters) – Three thousand Russian troops began live-fire exercises with hardware including tanks in western Russia on Tuesday, including in areas close to Ukraine, Interfax news agency quoted the military as saying.
Russia has perturbed the West by building up troops near Ukraine and demanded that Washington pledge not to ever let Ukraine join NATO or expand the military alliance eastward, a stipulation that the United States refuses to accept.
The announcement of the drills came a day after Russia and the United States held talks on Moscow’s security proposals. The Kremlin said on Tuesday they had given no cause for optimism about a potential breakthrough.
Interfax quoted the Western Military District as saying the exercises would take place in Smolensk region near the Belarusian border and in the Voronezh, Belgorod and Bryansk regions closer to Ukraine.
It said that 300 pieces of military hardware would be involved, including T-72B3 tanks, BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles and regular firearms.
It said the exercises would practice firing from armoured vehicles and firearms, organising marches during active enemy sabotage and reconnaissance activity, and equipping strongholds.
“Each unit will complete the manoeuvres by conducting a training battle with a live firing stage during which… BMP-2 armoured vehicles and T-72B3 tanks will show their joint action skills and hit targets imitating the adversary’s vehicles and soldiers at ranges up to 1,200 metres,” the military was quoted as saying.
Washington has urged Moscow to reverse its build-up of an estimated 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, which has prompted Ukrainian and Western concerns about a possible new invasion, eight years after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.
Moscow has said it has no intention of attacking and has every right to move around its soldiers on its own territory and to carry out military drills as it sees fit.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Mark Trevelyan)