Playing maneuvers

Agency WPS
DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia)
August 27, 2004, Friday

PLAYING MANEUVERS

SOURCE: Kommersant, August 24, 2004, p. 10

by Vadim Tokhsyrov, Ivan Safronov

Maneuvers of the 58th Army began at the testing site Sernovodsky in
South Ossetia, yesterday.

Over 2,000 servicemen and 100 armored vehicles will spend five days
drilling combat tactic under Army Commander Lieutenant General Viktor
Sobolev. Shooting practice is planned too. The 429th and 135th
motorized infantry regiments quartered in Mozdok (North Ossetia) and
Prokhladnoye (Kabardino-Balkaria) are involved in the exercise. A
source from the 58th Army headquarters says that this is the first
exercise on this scale in the region this year. The source emphasized
that the maneuvers “are planned and do not have anything to do with
what is happening in South Ossetia.”

All the same, Tbilisi immediately voiced its concern. Givi
Targamadze, Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee of the
parliament of Georgia, said that if the Russian military moved in the
direction of the territory of Georgia, “Tbilisi will take measures to
protect the state borders.” Defense Minister Georgy Baramidze called
the exercise an example of non-constructive policy of Russia with
regard to Georgia. The Russian military meanwhile denies any
political undertones in the exercise. Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov of the
Defense Ministry’s PR Department said, “Regimental exercise of the
58th Army cannot have any negative effect on the situation in South
Ossetia because they do not have anything to do with the events
around Tskhinvali.” According to Sedov, the exercise was planned last
year. “I cannot say for Georgia – it may be taking it as an exercise
on a large scale. For Russia, however, it is a routine,” he said.

Yesterday, Moscow had its peacekeepers in Georgia begin an exercise.
The exercise of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Contingent under
Lieutenant General Alexander Yevteev (a planned exercise, that is),
began in West Georgia and Abkhazia, districts of the North and South
security zones. According to what information this newspaper has
compiled, the involved units and formations will drill the process of
bringing up the readiness status, marches to the positions in zones
of responsibility, and prevention of armed clashes. Sources in the
Defense Ministry say as well that peacekeepers will practice
fulfillment of provisions of the mandate of the CIS Collective
Peacekeeping Contingent and Moscow Accord on cease-fire dated May 14,
1994.

“Activeness in maneuvers” of the Russian Armed Forces is not going to
be restricted by that. A command exercise under District
Chief-of-Staff Colonel General Aleksei Maslov begins today on the
Caucasus Military District. 5.5 thousand Reservists are to be
deployed. The Russian-Armenian exercise begins at the testing site
named after Marshal Bagramjan in Armenia. They involve two motorized
infantry regiments (one Russian from the 102nd Military Base in
Gyumri, one Armenian) and aviation – MIG-29 fighters and SU-25
ground-attack aircraft.

It should be noted as well the Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov who
visited Mozdok last week said that “the conflict in South Ossetia
will deteriorate unless the conflict itself is settled by political
and diplomatic methods.” There is no way to say at this point to
which of these methods Russia’s activeness in the Caucasus should be
referred, the activeness that will keep Georgia in the ring of
military exercises for at least a week.

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