Russia conducts military drills and ‘firing assignments’ in key European Cold War outpost

According to the region’s military officials, 500 personnel and more than 200 military vehicles will conduct drills in the Baltic Sea. The drills will take place just off the coast of the Russian region of Kaliningrad.

The region is a crucial Russian enclave deep in eastern Europe near to the border with Poland.

The fleet’s press officer said: “The artillery troops will accomplish over 150 various firing assignments, employing Giatsint artillery guns, Grad and Uragan multiple launch rocket systems, Msta-S, Akatsiya and Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers, Nona self-propelled artillery systems and other artillery armament.

“The drills aim to practice stage-by-stage cohesion of artillery units, improve the personnel’s combat skills, increase the commanders’ practical skills of fire control during the defence and in an offensive.”

Kaliningrad was a crucial outpost during the Cold War due to its proximity to western Europe.

The military drills come as Vladimir Putin has faced pressure over his support for Syria’s President, Bashir al-Assad.

Syria and Turkey are at risk of escalating into a full-scale war against each other in the northern region of the country.

Assad’s troops, who are backed by Russia, have attempted to take a portion of the northwest back off some rebel group, who are supported by Turkey.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday that 34 Turkish soldiers had been killed by a Syrian airstrike in the region.

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In retaliation, a further 19 Syrian soldiers were killed following an attack on the city of Idlib.

Despite supporting the Syrian regime, Mr Putin has claimed Russia is looking to avoid war at all costs.

He said: “We are not going to fight against anyone.

“We are going to create conditions so that nobody wants to fight against us.

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“Moreover, our annual expenditures are falling.

“In contrast, other countries’ military spending has been rising.”

While both Turkey and Russia have agreed to try and de-escalate tensions in the region, Russia sent two warships to the waters off Syria last month.

With the situation worsening, NATO will consider strengthening Turkey’s air defences in response to the recent airstrike on Turkish troops.

The alliance met for an emergency meeting last Friday to discuss potential measures.

Director general of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said the group is “constantly looking into what more they can do to provide further support for Turkey”.

He also stated that NATO expressed its “full solidarity” with Turkey in the aftermath of the attack Idlib.

However, Mr Stoltenberg said no immediate response had been agree on the situation in the region.

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