A series of military exercises is conducted in Russia on the eve of the end of the training year in the troops. At present, exercises are organized in the North Caucasus and in the Black Sea. In conditions of instability in Georgia and the actions of militants in Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria these exercises look appropriate and important. However, Lieutenant General Alexander Burutin, Senior Deputy Chief of the General Staff, says that Caucasian Border-2007 exercise started on November 2 is organized in a preplanned manner and is not caused by worsening of the situation at the southern borders of the country. Burutin points out that “in comparison to East-2007 exercises conducted in Siberia and Far East, Caucasian Border-2007 exercises do not have a strategic nature. The North Caucasian exercises have a narrow direction and the quantity of our forces there is very limited.” The exercises are commanded by Commander of the North Caucasian Military District Army General Baranov.
The active phase of the exercises takes place in Verkhny Lars and Alagirskoe Gorge areas and Daryal training range of the Southern Federal District. According to Burutin, more than 1,500 servicemen and a significant quantity of armament and military hardware including more than 100 combat armored vehicles, army, attack and bomber aviation, reconnaissance and electronic countermeasures forces participate in the exercises.
Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, aide to the Air Force Commander, has told WPS that airplanes and combat helicopters of the Air Force perform more than 20 sorties per day. According to Drobyshevsky, Su-24 airplanes and Mi-8 helicopters with thermal imaging devices, as well as strike helicopters Mi-24 supporting dropping of tactical landing parties are used for reconnaissance of the terrain and bases of conventional terrorists. Attack airplanes Su-25, fighters MiG-29 and air command post IL-22 participated in the main stage of the exercises too.
Andrei Bobrun, director of the information and public relations service of the North Caucasian Military District, stated that the active phase of the exercises began on November 5 and was continuing. According to Bobrun, at the first stage of the exercises the troops fulfill tasks of preparation and conduction of a special operation for parrying of an attack of bandit forces, search and blocking of bandit groups in the submountain and mountain areas of the North Caucasus with their follow-up liquidation.
Bobrun points out that Caucasian Border-2007 exercises are organized in accordance with the plan for preparation of military command bodies and troops of the North Caucasian Military District and crowns training year 2007 in the district.
Meanwhile, despite the preplanned nature, unlike the command staff exercises in the Far East, Caucasian Border-2007 exercises have real enemies in the form of terrorists and militants who have come to the North Caucasus from the south. A priori, Georgia already accused Russia of violation of Georgian airspace by Russian military airplanes and Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, aide to the Air Force Commander, denied this information. Along with this, situation in the area of the Main Caucasian Ridge remains complicated.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that on a territory close to the border of Georgia in Kabardino-Balkaria (5 kilometers from Lechinkai village of the Chegem District), where servicemen of the Botlikh mountain brigade climbed the Elbrus Mountain in summer, militants cruelly killed nine local hunters. According to the staff of the North Caucasian Military District, units of the 34th (Zelenchukskaya) mechanized infantry mountain brigade formed recently in Karachay-Cherkessia are moving on the tracks of the killers now. Mountain infantry will fulfill combat tasks on a difficult mountain and forest terrain in interaction with special forces of the North Caucasian Military District. At any rate, there is no guarantee that the militants will be caught. According to one of the versions, the hunters in Kabardino-Balkaria were killed by Chechen militants from the gang of Doku Umarov who moved from Chechnya and Ingushetia to Kabardino-Balkaria now and tried to go to Georgia for the winter.
In turn, the Black Sea Fleet grew more active near the border coasts of the Southern Federal District. Captain of the First Rank, Igor Dygalo, aide to the Navy Commander, has reported that big landing ships Yamal and Tsezar Kunikov and patrol ship Ladny fulfill their tasks near the eastern maritime borders of Russia in the Black Sea now. Along with this, Burutin says that “The ships have gone out to the sea for the purpose of evaluation of readiness of forces of the Black Sea Fleet. These exercises are not connected with Caucasian Border-2007 exercises being underway in the south of Russia now.” Burutin hopes that these exercises, as well as “the series of naval exercises in this region will not cause a surge of additional tension in the zones of Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts.”
These exercises have already alarmed Georgia. Thus, commander of the united staff of the armed forces of Georgia, Zaza Gogava, announced that Russian frigate Ladny being, according to his information, armed with missiles having launch range of 80 kilometers, was sailing 32 kilometers from the Georgian territorial waters on November 4. Gogava told journalists that the Russian party was obliged to coordinate such exercises with the Georgian party but “this was not done.”
In turn, Captain of the First Rank, Igor Dygalo, aide to the Navy Commander and director of the information service of the Navy, says that the Georgian party states its claims fruitlessly. Dygalo explains, “In accordance with the document on strengthening of measures of confidence and security in the naval field in the Black Sea, each coastal state participating in this document notifies other participants about two largest exercises in the Black Sea annually.” According to him, Russia notified all participants of the document including Georgia about two large exercises in the Black Sea on time at the end of 2006 in accordance with the established format. The Russian Black Sea Fleet already conducted these exercises in 2007. Dygalo adds, “Russia does not have any other international obligations that prescribe any notifications about naval activities and movement of ships in the Black Sea.”