Russia held tactical military exercises today in occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, as Moscow kicks off three-week-long series of drills in the Southern Military District (SMD).
The Russian Defense Ministry reported that in one training servicemen held a mock exercise targeting “saboteurs” who attempted to seize a hospital in Tskhinvali, the chief town of the region.
In another drill, troops operated unmanned aerial vehicles Granat-1 for reconnaissance of equipment and fortifications of an imaginary enemy and destroyed them with 122mm Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers and Grad multiple rocket launchers.
The latter exercise was held on the training ground in Dzartsemi, a former ethnic Georgian village razed to the ground after the Russo-Georgian 2008 War.
The military exercises come as SMD spokesperson Vadim Astafyev told Russian media today that more than 30 tactical exercises had begun in the District.
In the coming three weeks, Russia will also hold drills in Georgia’s another occupied region, Abkhazia, as well as Russia’s own Volgograd Oblast, Stavropol Krai, Adygea, Chechnya, Dagestan, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, and Ingushetia, according to RIA news agency.
The news outlet said each exercise will include about 400 troops and around 80 pieces of military and special equipment across 15 training locations in the Southern Military District.
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The Russian drills are held amid strained relations between Ukraine and the West, on one hand and Russia, on the other, over Moscow’s military build-up in and around Ukraine.
The Kremlin also demands for NATO to formally disavow its 2008 pledge that Georgia and Ukraine will eventually become members of the alliance.
Since the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, Russia stepped up its military presence in Georgia’s occupied regions, where it now operates two military bases. Both 7th (Abkhazia) and 4th (Tskhinvali) military bases fall under the command of the SMD.
Tbilisi has repeatedly expressed concerns about Russian-led drills and the military presence in the occupied Tskhinvali Region, as well as in Abkhazia.
NB: The article was updated for the ease of reading. Final update on 23:20.