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    Russian Marines Kick Off Live Fire Drills in Crimea

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    The marines will practice loading and unloading equipment from large landing ships, as well as firing artillery and learning to drive military hardware.

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    © Sputnik / Виталий Белоусов
    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Up to 500 Russian marines from the Black Sea Fleet are holding live fire exercises at a military paratrooper field in Crimea, the Defense Ministry’s Southern Military District’s press service said Wednesday.

    “A large landing ship, the Novocherkassk, has been deployed to the Opuk [military field] with command staff, armored self-propelled vehicles, and marines who will participate in field assembly of missile troops and artillery in the Southern Military District,” the press service said in a release.

    The marines will practice loading and unloading equipment from large landing ships, as well as firing artillery and learning to drive military hardware.

    Wheeled military vehicles will then deploy from Sevastopol to the region of Feodosia to complete practical tasks.

    Earlier this month, NATO conducted training exercises with Romanian, Turkish and Bulgarian Navies in the Black Sea, while a tactical group of Russian Black Sea warships staged drills targeting decoy "enemy" bombers and ships.

    Last week, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry told RIA Novosti that Russia planned to deploy 10 Tu-22M3 strategic bombers and a large motorized infantry unit to Crimea as part of a large-scale snap inspection of combat readiness.

    US Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki said last week that Russia's military exercises in Crimea would "undermine securing a peaceful diplomatic resolution" to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

    In March 2014 Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum but the West did not recognize the results, claiming the vote violated Ukraine's territorial integrity.

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    military drills, Southern Military District, Russian Defense Ministry, Crimea, Russia
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