A pro-Russia militant stands guard on a road near Donetsk on Aug. 18. (Dimitar Dilkoff / Getty Images)
MOSCOW — The Russian defense ministry said Wednesday it was conducting fresh military exercises in the south of the country as fighting intensified between rebels and government forces in Ukraine.
The major test of long-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems will take place at the Ashuluk base in Russia’s southern Astrakhan region, several hundred kilometers (miles) from the fighting in eastern Ukraine, a spokesman told Interfax news agency.
“Today there will be around 20 launches of S-300 and S-400 rockets. The surface-to-air missile systems should provide a massive strike on the hypothetical enemy, destroying high-altitude, low-altitude and ballistic targets,” the agency quoted Col. Igor Klimov as saying.
He said the exercise would simulate a possible air and missile attack, and involve more than 800 soldiers and 200 pieces of military equipment.
The surface-to-air missile systems used in the training are different from the medium-range Buk system believed to have been used by pro-Russian separatists to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 on board.
The West believes the Buk system was supplied by Moscow, although Russia denies this and has blamed Ukraine for the tragedy.
Russia has conducted numerous military exercises this summer which the West has criticized as intending to intimidate Ukraine.