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    Ex-Soviet states to hold joint air defense drills in 2009

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    Members of the Commonwealth of Independent States have agreed to conduct joint air defense exercises in the summer of 2009, the Russian defense minister said on Wednesday.

    ST. PETERSBURG, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - Members of the Commonwealth of Independent States have agreed to conduct joint air defense exercises in the summer of 2009, the Russian defense minister said on Wednesday.

    "The joint exercises with live firing, dubbed Combat Commonwealth-2009, will be held in June-September 2009," Anatoly Serdyukov told a news conference after a meeting of CIS defense ministers.

    The Council of CIS defense ministers held its 55th meeting in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, focusing on the role and activities of the collective CIS peacekeeping force in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone, and improving the integrated air defense system of CIS countries.

    The CIS, a loose alliance of former Soviet states, comprises Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Ukraine is a founding and participating country but technically not a member state. Turkmenistan holds associate status.

    An integrated air defense network was set up by 10 CIS member countries on February 10, 1995.

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