Russian paratroopers arrive in North Caucasus for combat drills
Paratroopers from Russia's 76th Airborne Division arrived Wednesday in North Ossetia to participate in the active stage of large-scale military exercises in the North Caucasus. The exercise, dubbed Caucasus 2008, involves units of the North Caucasus Military District, mainly the 58th Army, the 4th Air Force Army, Interior Ministry troops, and border guards. "The personnel, equipment and ammunition are being unloaded at the town of Mozdok" in North Ossetia, a spokesperson for Russia's Ground Forces said Wednesday. The paratroopers will make a forced march to the assigned zone of operation in the mountains, where they will conduct a series of tactical exercises, including live-fire drills. The Pskov paratroopers will be later joined by units from an air assault regiment based in the Volga region, which will be transported to the Krasnodar Territory by rail and conduct a forced march to the exercise zone. The exercise is taking place on the territory of Chechnya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Circassia. Lt. Col. Andrei Bobrun, an aide to the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, earlier said the exercise involves some 8,000 military personnel, about 700 combat vehicles and more than 30 aircraft. The main goal of the exercise, according to the Russian military, is to work on interoperability between federal troops, Interior Ministry troops, border guards, and the Air Force in special operations against militants and in the defense of Russia's state borders, and to practice support of Russian peacekeepers in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia protested Wednesday against the Russian military exercise near its borders, saying it was another manifestation of aggression against Tbilisi. Georgia's parliament approved Tuesday a presidential initiative to increase the armed forces by 5,000 personnel to 37,000 amid growing tensions with Russia over two breakaway provinces.
Russian planes fly over South Ossetia to avert Georgia invasion
Russian military planes were flying over South Ossetia to avert a possible invasion from Georgia, the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Thursday. “On July 9, tensions have mounted sharply in the South Ossetia conflict zone. We received the information, including from the command of the peacekeeping forces, about a possible direct invasion of Georgian troops allegedly aimed at a release of four servicemen, who were detained by the South Ossetian law enforcement agencies,” the ministry’s department said. “To clarify the situation Russian military planes have made a short flight over South Ossetia,” the department said. “As later events showed even this step allowed cooling down the hot heads in Tbilisi and avert a scenario with the use of force that was quite real,” the Foreign Ministry’ s department said.
In other news:
Russia must punish states hosting U.S. missile shield
Russia must use economic and political means, and military ties with Asia, to punish European states that agree to host U.S. missile defense elements, a Russian political analyst said on Wednesday. Commenting on a U.S.-Czech deal signed on Tuesday on deploying a missile tracking radar, Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Moscow-based Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said: "Russia should not limit itself to statements. We must have a plan, adopted by the Russian Security Council, setting out measures on the economic, political and military cooperation levels." Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the U.S. of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security and international nuclear deterrence. Washington says the defenses are needed to deter a possible strike from Iran. The U.S.-Czech missile shield treaty has yet to be ratified by the Czech parliament and signed by the Czech president. The country's opposition is currently holding mass rallies around the country against the placement of an early warning radar near the capital, Prague. Polish-American talks on Washington's plans to place a missile base in Poland have stalled. Poland's prime minister said last Friday that his country was not satisfied with the terms offered by the U.S., but was ready for further dialogue. Ivashov, who headed the main directorate for military cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry in 1996-2001, told RIA Novosti: "On the political level, we must suspend our cooperation with NATO, because it brings us nothing but harm." As an alternative, he suggested that Russia start negotiations with China, India and other countries to form a global alliance against the U.S. missile shield in Europe. "A relevant decision must be made, at least in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)," Ivashov said. The CSTO is a regional security organization comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. On the economic level, Russia must restrict imports and exports from and to countries which allow the placement of U.S. missile defense systems on their territory. "Bilateral relations with these countries as a whole must be limited," Ivashov said. "Russia must also warn the European countries that... in case of a potential military confrontation... capitals, large cities, and industrial and communications centers of the countries hosting elements of the U.S. missile shield will inevitably become primary targets of nuclear strikes," the general said. "They should know that we are holding them in our sights," he added.