Russia stages military exercises as Ukrainian forces advance

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Monday, as Ukrainian forces continue to advance into rebel held territory, Russia announced it is to hold military exercises near its border with Ukraine.

Sukhoi Su-27 aircraft are reported to be among those participating in exercises
Image: Dmitriy Pichugin.

Russia said the exercises would involve over 100 aircraft. Western leaders have accused Russia of a military build-up adjacent to Ukraine. Russia held military exercises in the area in March; last week NATO General Philip Breedlove said Russia still has 12,000 troops adjacent to Ukraine, although Russia has claimed its forces have withdrawn from the area. Russia has also been accused of arming rebels in the continuing fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

Russia also said the exercises were to include an array of fighters, bombers and helicopters, and told Interfax the purpose of the exercises is to improve air force cohesion. This week's exercises are to be followed by others with the same goal.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in Eastern Ukraine as government forces advance on the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, the principal cities left in rebel hands. These cities have both been reported to be surrounded, with civilians stockpiling resources in preparation for a siege amid worsening conditions. The Telegraph reported groups of rebels arming themselves with a mixture of new and old weapons, while telling accounts of setbacks inflicted upon the Ukrainian army.

The fighting, ongoing since April, is reported to have increased in intensity since Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down last month. The cause of the crash is still being investigated with experts from the Netherlands and Australia continuing to search the crash site.

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