Amid ongoing tension in Ukraine, Russia’s president ordered a military drill Wednesday, scheduled to continue until March 3rd.

From the NY Times:

President Vladimir V. Putin ordered a surprise exercise of ground and air forces on Ukraine’s doorstep Wednesday, intending to demonstrate his country’s military preparedness at a time of heightened tensions with Europe and the United States over the turmoil gripping Russia’s western neighbor. The Obama administration said any Russian military intervention in Ukraine would be a costly and “grave mistake.”

Russia’s military put tens of thousands of troops in western Russia on alert at 2 p.m. for an exercise scheduled to last until March 3. The minister of defense, Sergei K. Shoigu, also announced unspecified measures to tighten security at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

The NY Times noted however that “senior defense and government officials later said the exercise was not related to the events in Ukraine.”  A Reuters article, Putin puts troops in western Russia on alert in drill, also reports that officials in Russia said the drills were previously planned.

Buzzfeed also reports that Russia gave U.S. military leaders advance warning about the military exercise.

Regardless of any advance notice, observers and U.S. officials of course remain concerned.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that he hopes Russia will respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.

From Politico:

“We’re hoping that Russia will not see this as a sort of a continuation of the Cold War, we don’t see it that way,” Kerry said Wednesday on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC. “We do not believe this should be an East-West, Russia-United States — this is not ‘Rocky IV.’”

In the live interview from the State Department, Kerry said given Russia’s opposition to U.S. military intervention in other countries, he would expect them to stay out Ukraine militarily.

“It would be very difficult for me to understand how Russia would reconcile its position on Libya, its position on Syria, its warnings against intervention in another country and then not respect the sovereignty of Ukraine and the will of the people there,” Kerry said.

[…] “We see this as an opportunity for Russia, the United States and others to strengthen Ukraine, help them in this transition and there’s no reason they can’t look east and west and be involved as a vital cog in the economy of all of us going forward,” Kerry said.

(Longer video of above interview is available at the Washington Post)

Rival demonstrations meanwhile were underway in the southern Crimea region, according to CNN.

(Featured image: Reuters video via CNN)


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