Russian president Vladimir Putin on Saturday ordered military forces in central Russia on combat alert AP reported today. He also ordered a drill of airborne troops, a day after Ukraine ordered a cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels.
NATO said earlier this week that Russia had resumed a military build-up on the border with Ukraine where government forces had engaged pro-Russian separatists for weeks in a conflict that had left about 300 people dead and displaced over 34,000.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko ordered his forces to cease fire Friday and halt military operations for a week, in a bid to initiate a peace process he hoped would end the fighting. Dismissing the move, the Kremlin said it sounded like an ultimatum and held out no firm offer to open talks with insurgents.
Meanwhile, Voice of Russia reported that Russian president and supreme commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin had ordered a comprehensive surprise combat readiness test of the entire personnel of the Central Military District.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced at a conference at the defence ministry on Saturday, "In line with [Putin's] orders, the Central Military District's troops and also units and garrisons deployed on its territory have been put on full combat alert since 11:00 am today."
The combat alert in the central military district, encompassing the Volga region and the Ural mountains but not western Russia, would last until next Saturday.
The task set by the president is to check the troops' ability to perform their duties within the existing time standards over the first 24 hours, Shoigu said.
He added, that troops would then be deployed at ranges and conduct exercises in line with their intended purpose.
Over 65,000 military servicemen and about 5,500 items of weapons and military hardware would be involved in an ongoing comprehensive surprise combat readiness test of the Russian Central Military District forces, according to Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces.
He said at a conference with the Russian defence ministry command staff on Saturday that over 65,000 troops, about 5,500 weapon units and vehicles, over 180 planes, and about 60 helicopters would be involved in the test.
Interfax reports that according to Gerasimov, the maneuvers were designed to test the training level of the troops in the performance of their duties through shooting practice, control exercises, the use of aircraft and airborne drops.