Putin Orders Snap Military Drills on NATO Border

Russian military drills
Russian troops stand after a training exercise in the village of Nikinci, west from Belgrade, November 14, 2014. Marko Djuric/REUTERS

Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered snap military drills for Russian armed forces in the Baltic region to test Russia's "battle-readiness", a ministry of defence spokesperson told Russian news agency Interfax today.

"A self-sufficient, multi-purpose army of air, sea and land units was assembled in the period of less than a day in the Kaliningrad area, consisting of units from all branches of the armed forces," Andrey Kartapolov the lieutenant general of the Russian army said.

The drill took place between the 5th and 10th December, as servicemen were called to assume battle-stations in Kaliningrad without warning at 7am Moscow time on the 5th December.

According to Kartapolov, the drill included the Russian navy's Baltic fleet, troops from the western military district and a full array of military aviation units, all of whom are designated as defence organs entrusted with repelling attacks from Europe.

The drills consisted of 9,000 servicemen, 642 military vehicles, including 250 tanks and APCs, over 100 artillery units, 55 warships and the Iskander ballistic missile system.

"The air force and air defence units were tasked with covering important military and government targets and supporting ground troops from the air, as well as practicing hitting enemy units from the air," Kartapolov said.

The Baltic fleet engaged in practice fire drills and defending Russia's maritime borders under the scenario of a sea invasion, Kartapolov added.

According to Russia's ministry of defence all units involved in the drills showed "extraordinary qualities" and proved "hugely capable and battle-operational".

Kaliningrad is Russia's westernmost territory, bordering EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania. It holds immense strategic importance to Russia as it is an exclave, separate from the rest of Russia, and remains one of Russia's most heavily militarised areas. It is also Russia's major Baltic seaport.

The drills come after months of tension on Russia's borders with the Baltic and Scandinavian countries which has seen an unprecedented surge of sea and airspace violations.

The last en masse drill of units from Russia's western district took place at the height of the Ukrainian crisis in August when over 5,000 servicemen took part in practice near the Ukrainian border.

Russia's minister of defence, Sergey Shoygu told officers then they need to "be battle-ready at all times".