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Russia starts army drills to respond to Central Asia threats

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MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military launched a massive exercise Monday to simulate a response to possible security threats in Central Asia.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the five-day drills will “check the armed forces’ ability to ensure security in the Central Asian region that faces serious terrorist threats.”

Russian officials have voiced concerns about the possible spread of militants from Afghanistan into former Soviet nations in Central Asia.

Russia has a military contingent in Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, and an air base in Kyrgyzstan.

Shoigu said that the maneuvers will be held at 35 firing ranges. He added that they will check the troops’ capability to fend off terrorist threats and protect government facilities.

The Defense Ministry said about 150,000 troops, 500 aircraft and 20,000 military vehicles will take part in the drills.

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