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Russia stages drills near Ukrainian border

Russia on Monday (4 August) announced new military drills that will involve 100 aircraft on its southern flank, the latest in a series of manoeuvres likely to alarm war-torn Ukraine. 

MOSCOW: Russia on Monday (4 August) announced new military drills that will involve 100 aircraft on its southern flank, the latest in a series of manoeuvres likely to alarm war-torn Ukraine.

The drills involving 100 jets and helicopters including attack aircraft, fighter jets and supersonic interceptor jets will take place in the southern Astrakhan region from Monday to Friday, an air force spokesman said. The spokesman, Igor Klimov, denied the drills were related to the conflict in Ukraine where government forces have been battling Moscow-backed separatists since April.

"The manoeuvres are a routine event," Klimov told AFP. During the drills, the military will conduct missile launches and test aircraft weapons against land and air targets, he said. Late last week, Russia launched drills involving S-300 surface-to air missiles, also in the Astrakhan region.

Separately, the military said that this month it will stage exercises involving the next generation of the missile systems, the S-400.

The drills come as Russia is gearing up to call up reservists for two months of training between August and October. The drills, which follow a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, will take place in all of the country's military districts.

Reservists will be trained to use new and modernised weapons and equipment, the defence ministry said in a statement on Friday, adding the training had been planned in November 2013. NATO has sounded the alarm over what it calls "Russia's aggression" against Ukraine, with the military bloc's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Sunday urging NATO countries to increase their defence investments.

The crisis in Ukraine deepened after the downing of a Malaysian plane last month with all 298 people on board that Kiev and Washington blamed on a missile supplied by Russia. Moscow instead pointed the finger at Ukraine.

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