The combat-readiness inspection began on July 13. Forces and units from the Central and Eastern Military Districts, the Pacific Fleet, and Air Force long-range, military transport, fighter, bomber and army aviation units took part in the exercises, which involved carrying out training combat missions at 17 test grounds and on board Pacific Fleet ships in the Okhotsk Sea and Sea of Japan.
The exercises’ main aim was to test forces’ preparedness for carrying out combat missions and assess the servicemen’s performance, technical preparedness and level of supply of arms and equipment in the different units.
Earlier, Mr Putin watched exercises underway at the Uspenovsky test ground in Sakhalin Region.
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“These kinds of exercises are particularly important now, with the large-scale work underway to modernise and re-arm the armed forces. They need to have the chance to see how it will all work in modern combat conditions and see who will be using it and in what conditions.”
Answers to journalists’ to journalists’ questions after watching Central and Easter Military District training exercises at Tsugol test ground
Question: Mr President, you have been following these large-scale military exercises over the last two days. Could you share with us your impressions? The scale is impressive. I imagine there must have been some problems and difficulties too. Could you give us some details of any problems that came up?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, the exercises certainly were large-scale. They were the first of their kind in recent Russian history, probably even in the Soviet period too. Five armies were involved, the Air Force and Air Defence commands, including strategic aviation, more than 160,000 troops, around 6,000 military hardware items (two armies moved over huge distances), and the Pacific Fleet.
The armed forces need to be in motion, need to be able to test and improve their skills and knowledge on the move. These kinds of exercises are particularly important now, with the large-scale work underway to modernise and re-arm the armed forces. They need to have the chance to see how it will all work in modern combat conditions and see who will be using it and in what conditions.
The difficulties lay in the fact that these were not simply training exercises but were a snap inspection, with the units put into full instant mobilisation. This differs from previous exercises, when only some of the forces were involved and would come to a test ground already prepared in advance and work in familiar conditions. These exercises, on the contrary, mobilised entire units, which then had to move into place using the regular equipment at their disposal.
The transport aircraft performed very well, as did the railway workers and sailors, including those operating the ferry links to Sakhalin. This is all a huge set of tasks to ensure supply of arms and ammunition, food and medical supplies.
The exercises are not yet over but are in the final stage. The troops have already got the order to complete their tasks and return to their usual bases. Everyone will be back at their bases by July 21. Overall, the exercises have gone very smoothly with good discipline and not a single serious violation of any sort. Overall, they have achieved their aims.
I note too, that the troops had to work in difficult conditions because they found themselves deployed at unfamiliar test grounds. In such conditions they could not perform at the full 100 percent of course, and did not hit every single target, but they demonstrated a high level of overall combat readiness and ability to carry out the missions set.
Yesterday, I had the chance to talk with people in the streets of Chita, with civilians. It made me very happy to hear that one of the first questions they asked was the same as yours just now: how are the exercises going? And as I said, these were civilians asking.
This just goes to show how much attention and respect people around Russia have for the armed forces and how closely they follow what is happening in this area. Of course, it was men who asked these questions, but I’m sure that women are interested too, all the more so as we have more and more women serving in the armed forces now.
“We need to get the Far East fully connected to the gas supply network and make sure it has all the primary energy supplies of coal, gas, and heating fuel.”
Today, we can be proud of our armed forces. As I said, the exercises are not over yet and the troops still all need to return to their usual bases, which is also a big and not so simple task. But I can already say that the set objectives have been achieved and the exercises have been more than satisfactory so far.
I want to thank the command staff and all of the servicemen for their performance. I hope the final stage will be completed to the same standard, pace and quality.
Question: Mr President, you discussed the energy sector on Sakhalin, in particular, you spoke about increasing gas production. What is the reason for this? Is it about satisfying demand on the domestic market, or gaining a bigger share on the Asia-Pacific markets?
Vladimir Putin: It’s about both. The Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 projects, which are global rather than national in scope, have been underway for a while now on Sakhalin. Other projects are in the pipeline. Our big companies and our foreign partners are working well there, working successfully. We are very happy with this cooperation. All of the plans that were drawn up are being carried out in full.
Of course we need to look at developing energy supply and the energy sector, above all in our own country. We discussed this matter late yesterday evening in Chita. There is still no reliable gas supply in this region after all. The region in general is not connected to the gas supply network. The network bypasses the region.
That is just one example of the problems we face within the country. We need to get the Far East fully connected to the gas supply network and make sure it has all the primary energy supplies of coal, gas, and heating fuel. We need to develop electricity production here. These are all things that play a part in developing this huge region’s economy in general.
At the same time, we are also looking at how to expand on the promising Asia-Pacific markets of course. We need to find our niche there and we have every opportunity for doing so. The region gets a lot of its energy supplies from Australia and the Middle East, but Russia has huge potential. The region is growing very fast and energy demand will only grow too.
“Russia has an independent foreign policy and will continue to follow it. I hope that our partners will understand this and respond calmly and with comprehension. I think that relations between countries are far more important than squabbles over intelligence services’ activities.”
We have every chance of playing a prominent part here, as you saw. Our partners are interested in this too. There are big projects taking shape and we will carry them out and work in both directions at once.
Question: Mr President, I want to ask about [Edward] Snowden. What happened with [Bolivian President Evo] Morales showed that the White House will stop short of nothing in this case. Aren’t you worried that it might jeopardise the upcoming Russian-American summit? Also, it seems that the biggest question now is how you will distinguish between Snowden’s anti-American activities and his human rights activities.
Vladimir Putin: Let’s not go into all the details here. We warned Mr Snowden that any action on his part that would damage Russian-American relations is unacceptable for us.
As for the heart of the matter, I have already given my view. Human rights activity in general usually involves some kind of cost to those carrying it out, but if you’re working under United States aegis or with their financial, information and political support it can be a fairly comfortable activity to be involved in.
Of course, if you start criticising the United States itself, things become a lot more complicated, as the case with the Bolivian President’s plane showed. As I understand it, Mr Snowden never made it his aim to sit forever here in Russia, and he has already stated as much himself.
He is a young man. To tell the truth, I don’t really understand how he arrived at his decision and how he plans to build his life from here. But it is his life and his choice. We have our national tasks however, including building our relations with the United States.
We cannot and will not behave as many other countries have done. Russia has an independent foreign policy and will continue to follow it. I hope that our partners will understand this and respond calmly and with comprehension. I think that relations between countries are far more important than squabbles over intelligence services’ activities.
Thank you very much.