Putin orders surprise Black Sea military exercises amid Georgia meet

Putin orders surprise Black Sea military exercises amid Georgia meet

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Putin orders surprise Black Sea military exercises amid Georgia meet

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin addresses the BRICS summit in Durban on March 27, 2013. AFP Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered March 28 unscheduled military exercises involving thousands of troops and dozens of ships in the Black Sea region to test their battle readiness, the Kremlin said.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the exercises would involve 36 ships and up to 7,000 troops. Peskov indicated that the surprise order by Putin was aimed at testing out the battle readiness of the Russian armed forces and said Moscow was not obliged to warn its partners of the plan.

“We are talking about major exercises, intended as a check,” he said, adding that Putin had already warned the armed forces that they would be subject to sudden checks of their battle preparedness. 

Trilateral summit

The announcement came as Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan approved the Trilateral Sectoral Cooperation Action Plan for 2013-2015 during the Second Trilateral Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs held on yesterday in Batumi, Georgia. 

The plan determines concrete actions and cooperation plans in all major fields of mutual interest and new mechanisms and dimensions of trilateral cooperation. 

The ministers underlined the importance of the new format of regional cooperation as an important platform for both political dialogue and implementation of specific trilateral projects.

They reaffirmed the importance of the successful implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Crude Oil Pipeline Project, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) Natural Gas Pipeline Project and the initiation of new joint projects for the transportation of energy resources to international markets. 
Putin drew up the sudden order overnight while flying home from South Africa where he attended the summit of BRICS emerging economies in Durban.

Peskov said 36 ships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s base in the Ukrainian Crimean city of Sevastopol and the Russian port of Novorossiisk would be involved in the exercises. Aviation, paratroopers and special forces would also be involved, Peskov said. 

“According to international practice, exercises involving up to 7,000 people do not require us to inform our partners in advance,” he said. 

A Defense Ministry source told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the military drills, which would involve live firing, were already under way and would be wrapped up by the end of the week. 
Key littoral states on the Black Sea include Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia with whom Moscow fought a brief war in 2008. EU members Bulgaria and Romania also have a Black Sea coastline.