Up to 2,000 Russian soldiers took part in drills in the country’s west on Wednesday as Moscow conducted an inspection of its paratrooper units in the latest show of strength likely to alarm its neighbors.
Some 500 units of equipment were also to be included in drills in the western Pskov region which borders EU members Estonia and Latvia, defence ministry spokeswoman Irina Kruglova told AFP.
The drills, which will see some 1,500 paratroopers parachute en masse, were to continue until Saturday, she said, adding that soldiers would also capture and destroy a fictional enemy’s airfield.
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, Russia has staged a series of drills that have alarmed its post-Soviet neighbors and the West.
“It’s an unpleasant surprise to learn of these sudden exercises but not something we’re worried about,” Normunds Stafeckis, spokesman for Latvia’s defence ministry, told AFP.
“Nevertheless, when you have an airborne division and attack helicopters operating near the border, it isn’t pleasant.”
Lithuania said on Tuesday it would return to limited conscription later this year.
Estonia marked its independence day on Tuesday with a military parade featuring NATO hardware and troops on its eastern border with Russia.
Last week NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Adrian Bradshaw, said that Russia could try to seize territory from NATO states off the back of fighting in Ukraine.
The Russian drills came amid a faltering truce in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have been battling government troops since April.