Putin oversees massive military exercises as Russia puts on show of strength
Russian president Vladimir Putin was today personally overseeing his massive military exercises in western Russia.
His appearance as commander-in-chief came as footage showed a huge landing exercise in Kaliningrad on his border with Europe.
Some 2,000 servicemen and women and more than 200 pieces of military equipment took part in the drill as troops stormed ashore in a war game involving the Baltic and other fleets.
Before the troops landed, a squad of attack ships launched an artillery barrage along the coast to neutralise defences.
The landings by paratroopers and marines were supported by Su-30SM multirole fighters and Su-24 frontline bombers of the Baltic Fleet.
In another video, Russian helicopter gunships were seen in action in the Zapad-2021 large-scale drills evolving 200,000 troops intended to highlight Russia’s military readiness to the West - and neighbouring Ukraine.
The "helicopter carousel” attacks by Mi-35s and Mi-24s were aimed at inflicting continuous fire damage on communications, command posts and communication routes of the areas occupied by the "enemy".
Russia has announced that its forces will not all return to their military bases until mid-October, more than one month after drills are due to end.
"The return of command and control organisations and troops to their places of permanent deployment after participating in the exercise is due before mid-October," said the defence ministry.
The reason for the delay is not clear.
Nine ranges in Russia, including in the Baltic Sea, and five in Belarus are hosting the joint military exercises which are worrying Ukraine.
Putin today was due at a military range in Nizhny Novgorod region to supervise the joint exercises with Belarus, along with Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia .
“The president will watch the exercise at the Mulino range in the Nizhny Novgorod region,” Rossiya 1 television channel reported.
The massive drills plus an announcement of closer ties between Russia and dictatorship Belarus have spooked Ukraine.
Kyiv Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: ”The scenarios practiced there represent serious risks (to Ukraine).
“We understand that if Russia absorbs Belarus in one way or another, we will have 1,000 kilometres of additional danger to our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
His predecessor Pavlo Klimkin warned that Russia was seeking to almost encircle Ukraine with forces.
He called for a plea for help from NATO.
The exercises are on-going across a swathe of Russia from the Baltic to the borders of Ukraine, while separate drills are underway in the Arctic.