About 8,500 Russian troops will take part in military exercises starting this month in the country’s North Caucasus region, just north of Georgia, the Russian defence ministry said on Thursday.
Dubbed “Caucasus 2009,” the exercises will take place not far from where Russia and Georgia fought a brief war last August, and they come just weeks after the end of NATO war games in Georgia that infuriated Moscow.
“In all around 8,500 people will participate in these exercises and up to 200 tanks, 450 armoured cars and up to 250 artillery pieces of various types will be used,” the defence ministry said in a statement detailing its plans.
The Russian exercises will run from June 29 to July 6 and will focus on counter-terrorism and the handling of emergency situations, the ministry said.
They will involve more troops than the “Caucasus 2008” war games that Russia held in the same region last year. Some 8,000 soldiers took part in the 2008 exercises, which took place just weeks before the Russia-Georgia war.
Last month, a Russian deputy defence minister said “adjustments” would be made to the “Caucasus 2009” exercises in response to the NATO war games in Georgia, an ex-Soviet state that has sought to join the Western alliance.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war last August over the rebel Georgian region of South Ossetia, causing Moscow’s relations with the West to plunge to their worst low since the Cold War.
Since then Moscow has been extremely critical of any military cooperation between NATO and Georgia. It repeatedly denounced NATO’s war games in Georgia in May and June, which involved about 1,100 troops from 16 countries.