Russia has ordered its Crimea-based military unit, the Black Sea Fleet, to undergo drills testing troops’ combat readiness in the same week that a ceasefire in war-torn Dondas region of Ukraine was agreed in Minsk.
“During training we will assess the efficiency of the military command, as well as the naval force at their disposal and the air defence and coastal units of the fleet,” colonel general Alexander Galkin told Russia’s state owned news agency Itar-Tass.
The Russian commander added that the tests will be carried out by units across the Black Sea Fleet’s 11,000-strong force, including the Crimean naval and air facilities around the cities Sevastopol and Simferopol. The unit’s coastal artillery troops will also be tested before the end of the drill.
Following Crimea's unification with Russia in March, Kremlin reinforced the Black Sea Fleet on the peninsula with the Russian Naval Command issuing a briefing late last year that said that Crimea and the Arctic will be two areas of priority for Russia.
Shortly after the referendum, pro-Russian separatists in two eastern regions of Ukraine, collectively known as Donbas, also declared their secession from Ukraine following similar referendums in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in May.
Since then there has been ongoing fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the region, with several agreed ceasefires falling through.
However, in a meeting this week in Belarus between Ukraine’s president Poroshenko and Russia’s president Putin, mediated by the leaders of France and Germany, it was agree that a new ceasefire will come into force this Sunday.