Russian paratroopers to conduct over 1,000 exercises this summer

Russia's Airborne Troops (VDV) are set to conduct over 1,000 combat readiness exercises in the summer period across the territory of Russia, the country's Ministry of Defence announced today.

Over the last year Russia has ramped up military drills in response to the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine, where Russian servicemen have led a covert separatist push against Ukraine's pro-European government forces.

Russia's airborne forces have been among the troops most frequently called to perform massive shows of military might. 3,500 paratroopers were sent on simultaneous para-drops last year at the same time as Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in an unrecognized referendum.

Now Russia's military command has said the airborne troops will be ordered to complete over 1,000 exercises to test their battle readiness in the next four months, which is a 20% increase in activities compared to the same period last year.

Over 250 of these exercises will involve field work reportedly related to "peacekeeping," while practical exercises will begin as soon as this week for soldiers on contract. Meanwhile conscripts will begin the training period with lessons in military history.

Other exercises will include landing practice, as well as drills in collaboration with other units from the Russian military and the militaries of allied states who are members of Russia's Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

Yevgeny Meshkov, a spokesman for the VDV told Russian news agency Interfax that the exercises will take part across the territory of Russia, spanning almost 20 regions.

He did not elaborate which regions would be included, however the deputy head commander of the airborne division told the Echo of Moscow radio station last month that paratroopers will be sent to the Arctic for combat drills this summer. Russia has announced previous Arctic drills for its paratroopers over the last year.

Paratrooper activities in Russia's regions near Ukraine aroused mass suspicion last summer after the capture of a group of soldiers from Russia's 98th paratrooper division by Ukrainian defence forces. The paratroopers claimed they were sent to Ukraine on a "special mission" while the Russian government said they entered Ukraine by accident while conducting a military exercise near the border.

Around the same time there were rumours that members of 76th Pskov paratrooper division had been killed while fighting in Ukraine as reports in local paper Pskovskaya Guberniya of a secret funeral for soldiers from the unit made news after its members were reported missing. Families of soldiers reported dead or missing were either not notified of where their sons were or were told they were conducting exercises on the Ukrainian border in Rostov region.

Russia has continued to deny conducting any official military operations in Ukraine, despite mounting evidence suggesting otherwise.

The upcoming four months of intense exercises will also include the period in July and August when Russian troops are scheduled to participate in military competitions with the militaries of states such as Belarus and China. The VDV will participate in the games according to the Ministry of Defence.