KOTELNY ISLAND, March 14 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Airborne Troops on Thursday paradropped a 350-strong battalion at a landing site on the New Siberian Islands in the Arctic as part of ongoing military drills.
It took the battalion from the 98th Guards Airborne Division, based near Moscow, about an hour to “capture” an airfield and prepare it for the landing of transport planes loaded with troops, heavy military equipment and supplies, a spokesman for the Airborne Troops said.
Commenting on the success of the mission, Airborne Troops commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said it was a feat of valor and prowess only Russian paratroopers are capable of, as the drills were carried out in extremely adverse weather conditions.
“You can be proud of our paratroopers, who accomplish their tasks in any conditions,” Shamanov told reporters.
The 98th division started large-scale exercises involving 4,000 troops, 36 military transport aircraft and an unspecified number of combat vehicles on March 11.
Apart from the Arctic, the paratroopers have been deployed in the Rostov, Tambov, Belgorod and Kursk regions – all bordering on Ukraine – “to practice combat techniques and maneuvering,” according to the defense ministry.
The drills come in the wake of a number of military exercises in Russia’s western regions in recent weeks, including air defense and artillery drills, combat readiness snap checks and the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Moscow says the exercises are not linked to the political standoff between Russia and the West over Crimea, an autonomous Ukrainian region with a narrow ethnic Russian majority.
Crimean authorities have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new central government in Kiev, which was installed after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in late February.
Local officials announced last week that they intended for the peninsula to become part of Russia.
A referendum on the issue has been set for March 16. Authorities in Kiev and international leaders have condemned the referendum as illegitimate and threatened Moscow with sanctions over its apparent intention to annex the region.