MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — An Armenian army contingent is taking part in military exercises of rapid reaction force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The drills, which began on Sunday in the Pskov region of Russia close to the Baltic states, have brought together more than 2,000 troops from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, they are reportedly backed up by 200 tanks and other armored vehicles as well as 40 Russian warplanes and combat helicopters.
The commander in charge of the “Cooperation-2015” exercises, Russian General Vladimir Shamanov said the drills that began on August 23 would practice “localizing an armed conflict and eliminating illegal armed formations in the Eastern European region.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry has said that after the first phase of the exercises are completed in the Pskov region, the troops and military hardware will be redeployed to the Ashuluk training range in southern Russia’s Astrakhan region. Ashuluk is about 500 kilometers from Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine.
The statement stressed that the scenario of the exercises is “not tied to the actual military-political situation” and that the CSTO force will only be practicing a joint deployment in “the Eastern European region of collective security.”
Armenia’s Defense Ministry did not specify the number of participating Armenian troops in a statement that announced their departure to Pskov on Saturday. A military source in Yerevan said the contingent comprises no more than 100 soldiers.