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Ukraine to hold air defense drills with live firing in September

05.09.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

Ukraine is planning to conduct large-scale air defense exercises with live firing on the Crimean peninsula at the end of September, a Ukrainian navy source said on Thursday.

The exercises are part of a practical stage of the Sea Knot-2008 command-and-staff maneuvers that began in spring and involve units from all branches of the Ukrainian armed forces.

The drills will involve about 350 air defense systems, including S-300, Buk-M1, Osa and Tunguska, and up to 30 combat aircraft.

"In addition, the troops will practice an amphibious assault landing, an air assault operation and live firing drills involving naval and ground support aircraft at the Opuk training range in the Crimea," the source said.

The Crimea, which has a predominantly Russian-speaking population, has been the focus of frequent disputes between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders, over the Russian Black Sea Fleet's lease of the Soviet-era Sevastopol naval base.

During the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia that followed Tbilisi's August 8 offensive in breakaway South Ossetia, Ukraine threatened to bar entry to vessels from Russia's Black Sea Fleet that had been deployed near Georgia's coast.

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