MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an end Tuesday to combat readiness drills in the west of the country that have been linked to a military incursion into neighboring Ukraine.
The orders apparently do not affect the heavily armed Russian troops that have been deployed in recent days across the southern Ukrainian Crimean peninsula and seized key strategic facilities.
Putin attended drills in Russia’s northwest Leningrad Region on Monday and top generals informed him that they had gone well, according to a Kremlin statement.
The practice maneuvers, which included live fire exercises and involved more than 150,000 servicemen, up to 90 planes, over 120 helicopters, more than 880 military vehicles and 80 warships, were announced by the Kremlin on Wednesday as tensions over the situation in Ukraine escalated.
Russia’s upper house of parliament approved the use of the armed forces in Ukraine – which shares a long land border with Russia – over the weekend, prompting world leaders to condemn Moscow’s armed incursion as an invasion and call for economic sanctions.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last week that the exercises had no relation to events in Ukraine, where a new government swept to power last month following months of street demonstrations.
Six similar snap combat readiness drills were held by Russian armed forces last year.