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    Russia began Monday large-scale military exercises in five regions of the North Caucasus, involving at least 8,000 personnel, an aide to the commander of the North Caucasus military district said Tuesday.

    ROSTOV-ON-DON, July 31 (RIA Novosti) - Russia began Monday large-scale military exercises in five regions of the North Caucasus, involving at least 8,000 personnel, an aide to the commander of the North Caucasus military district said Tuesday.

    The exercise involves units of the North Caucasus Military District, the 4th Air Force Army, Interior Ministry troops, border guards, and the Caspian Flotilla.

    "The total number of personnel involved in the command-and-staff exercise is over 8,000," Andrei Bobrun said.

    The main goal of the exercise is to practice interoperability between federal troops, interior ministry's troops, border guards, the Air Force and the Navy in special operations against militants and the defense of Russia's state borders.

    The exercise, which involves at least 350 combat vehicles and aircraft, will be conducted until August 9 on the territory of North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Daghestan, the Chechen Republic, and the Stavropol Territory.

    Air Force spokesman Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky earlier said aircraft and helicopters would practice reconnaissance, lock-on and destruction of air and ground targets.

    Although the active phase of the antiterrorism campaign in Russia's troubled North Caucasus region officially ended in 2001, periodic bombings and clashes between militants and federal troops still disrupt Chechnya and nearby regions, including Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Circassia.

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