by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Sept 5, 2016
Russia on Monday launched large-scale military drills on Ukraine's eastern border and around the Crimean peninsula, in the latest exercises set to rattle Kiev and the West.
The defence ministry said 12,500 servicemen are taking part in the drills across its southern military region, which encompasses Russia's volatile North Caucasus and the annexed Crimea region.
The Russian navy in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea are taking part in the exercises, the ministry said, adding that planes and weaponry are also being used in the exercises.
The exercises, which run until Saturday, will test the army's ability to "plan, prepare and carry out military actions," the ministry said in a statement.
Russia last month conducted a large-scale snap drill, putting its troops on full combat readiness in military districts bordering Ukraine and the Baltic States.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine spiked over the summer after Moscow accused Kiev of attempting armed incursions into Crimea.
Russia has recently beefed up its military might in Crimea -- delivering its most advanced air defence system, the S-400, to the peninsula last month.
Ukraine and its Western allies have been locked in a bitter confrontation with Russia since Moscow seized the strategic region from Kiev in March 2014.
Kiev and its Western allies have accused Moscow of pouring troops and weapons across Ukraine's porous eastern border to fuel a separatist conflict that has cost almost 10,000 lives since April 2014.
US-led military alliance NATO has vowed to boost troop levels in eastern Europe in response to fears in Poland and the Baltics over Russian expansionism.
Moscow has slammed the decision, accusing NATO of working to counter a "non-existent threat."
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