Russia has launched the final stage of its massive military drills in the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
On Friday, Russian navy ships, fighter jets and ground troops took part in the final stage of the biggest military exercises in Crimea since it joined the Russian Federation two years ago.
"On such a scale and with the deployment of different force groupings, such drills are being held for the first time," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Friday.
Moscow had used the peninsula in conducting drills even before Crimea joined Russia following a referendum in 2014, according to the official.
"This training range is the biggest on the Crimean peninsula, which allows for such exercises to be held," said Konashenkov.
According to the ministry, some 12,500 servicemen took part in the strategic military drills dubbed ‘Kavkaz 2016’ (Caucasus 2016), which began on September 5 across Russia's southern military region, which encompasses Crimea.
Russia’s S-300 missile systems and its most advanced air defense system, the S-400, were also used in the six-day exercises.
Russia's military jets and navy ships take part in a drill called ‘Kavkaz 2016’ (Caucasus 2016) at the coast of the Black Sea in Crimea on September 9, 2016. (AFP)
"Strategic drills... are essential to military training in Russia in 2016," Konashenkov said, "with a focus on different troops working together."
The drills come as tensions between Moscow and Kiev have flared in recent weeks after Russia’s Federal Security Service said it had thwarted an incursion by the Ukrainian military into Crimea. Two Russians were killed in the incident.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the exercises had nothing to do with the current tensions, emphasizing that they were planned last year.
"You should not twist this into anything -- there's no politics," Konashenkov told reporters. "The troops really are training here to make sure that everything is guaranteed, security is ensured."
"Crimea is protected now, it was protected yesterday and it was protected a year ago," the spokesman said, adding, "Crimea is part of Russia and the country protects it like any other region."
Russia's navy ships take part in a military exercise called ‘Kavkaz 2016’ (Caucasus 2016) at the coast of the Black Sea in Crimea on September 9, 2016. (AFP)
"The troops were set the task to fight off every kind of aggression" during the military exercises, the defense ministry spokesman said.
The experience gained in Syria was also used in the performed tasks in the drills, according to Konashenkov.
People in Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted in a referendum to join the Russian Federation in March 2014. The move angered the West and the Ukrainian government, which branded it as Moscow’s annexation of the territory.

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