Russia stages massive surprise war games on Black Sea (VIDEO)
The drills started early in the morning, when President Vladimir Putin, who was returning from Durban, South Africa, to Sochi aboard Air Force One, ordered Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to alert the Black Sea fleet, as well as the regional Air Force and troops.
Shoigu opened an envelope delivered to him at 4:00am Moscow time, and only then learned of the planned war games.
The Russian naval drills came as a surprise not only to the Russian armed forces, but also for neighboring countries’ militaries as well, which were forced to rub sleep from their eyes and rush to their duties as up to 30 Russian battleships left port. The battleships operating from the Russian naval base in Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine, were also alerted.
Defense Ministry press secretary Igor Konashenkov told Interfax that the drills “engaged over 7,100 troops, around 250 armored vehicles, some 50 cannons, up to 20 fighter jets and helicopters and about 30 various warships.”
“The training partly involves Air Forces, rapid deployment paratrooper divisions, Marines, special forces of the Intelligence Service of Russia’s General staff,” presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said, adding that at least three airborne insertions are planned during the exercises.
The troops and vehicles made a 500-kilometer march to assigned shooting ranges for target practice. The warships also conducted firing exercises in which the Russian Air Force practiced supporting naval and ground forces.
According to international practices, Russia remains within its rights not to inform any country about the military drills, given the large number of soldiers taking part in the war games, Peskov said. He also did not excluded possibility of President Putin personally inspecting the ongoing military training: The city of Sochi is situated on the Black Sea, very close to the training zones.
Spontaneous training missions such as this are apparently set to become routine in the Russian military. "If we recall the speech of the President at the Collegium of the Ministry of Defense some time ago, you remember his words that the similar practice of unannounced inspections will actively continue,” Peskov explained.
In February, the Russian military conducted an unannounced combat readiness drills for the first time in 20 years. The exercises at the time involved around 7,000 troops, 40 military aircraft and hundreds of armored vehicles.
The drills in the Black Sea coincided with a huge long-range aviation exercise by the Russian Air Force. A range of strategic bombers – such as the supersonic Tu-160, Tu-95MC, Tu-22M3, Ilyushin flying tankers, A-50 AWACS aircrafts, Su-27 fighter jets and supersonic MiG-31 interceptors – conducted over 60 missions at three ranges in various regions of the country.