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Russia's General Staff announces strategic drills with Belarus

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Russia's Defense Ministry has decided to intensify combat training in the Armed Forces and to hold joint military exercises with Belarus in 2009, the chief of Russia's General Staff said on Wednesday.
MOSCOW, December 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry has decided to intensify combat training in the Armed Forces and to hold joint military exercises with Belarus in 2009, the chief of Russia's General Staff said on Wednesday.

"Combat training in the Russian Armed Forces will be more intensive. Next year we are planning to hold the Autumn-2009 and West-2009 strategic exercises, involving a large number of personnel from several military districts, fleets, and the Belarusian Armed Forces," Gen. Nikolai Makarov said at a meeting with foreign military attaches. (Union Shield 2006 military exercise - Image Gallery)

Makarov admitted on Wednesday that August's five-day war with Georgia had revealed a number of serious drawbacks in the combat effectiveness of the Russian Armed Forces. He also said it had underlined the need for the country's ongoing military reform.

"We had serious drawbacks in this conflict and learned a number of lessons. We will deal with them as soon as possible," Makarov said.

Moscow launched a five-day military operation to "force Georgia to accept peace" after Tbilisi attacked South Ossetia on August 8 in an attempt to regain control over the republic, which split from Georgia in the early 1990s.

A number of Russian peacekeepers and a reported 1,600 South Ossetian residents lost their lives during the Georgian attack.

Makarov also said all future military exercises, from battalion level and higher, would be conducted on unfamiliar training grounds outside the military districts where the units are stationed.

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