Amid Ukraine tensions, Putin puts troops in western Russia on alert
MOSCOW (REUTERS) - President Vladimir Putin ordered an urgent drill to test the combat readiness of the armed forces across western Russia on Wednesday, news agencies reported, flexing Moscow's military muscle amid tension with the West over Ukraine.
"In accordance with an order from the president of the Russian Federation, forces of the Western Military District were put on alert at 1400 (6:00 pm, Singapore time) today," Interfax quoted Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying.
Mr Putin has ordered several such surprise drills in various parts of Russia since he returned to the presidency in 2012, saying the military must be kept on its toes, but the geopolitical overtones could hardly have been clearer this time.
The western district borders Ukraine, which lies between NATO nations and Russia. Mr Shoigu said the drill would be conducted in two stages, ending on March 3, and also involved some forces in central Russia.