MOSCOW (RIA Novosti)—Members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led military alliance of former Soviet states, started joint peacekeeping drills on Monday in Russia’s Urals region, the Central Military District said.
The drills, dubbed Unbreakable Brotherhood 2013, involve over 2,500 servicemen and more than 500 units of military hardware from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
It is the second joint exercise held by the CSTO peacekeeping contingent since its inception under a United Nations mandate in 2009. The first such exercise was held last year in Kazakhstan.
“The exercise will assess the ability of the CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces’ command to efficiently plan and execute peacekeeping operations,” said Col. Yaroslav Roshchupkin, an aide to the commander of the Central Military District.
The current drills, which will involve live ammunition fire, will continue at the Chebarkul firing range east of Chelyabinsk until October 12.
CSTO members use the organization as a platform to fight terrorism and organized crime, and have also pledged to provide immediate military assistance to one another in the event of an attack.
The bloc has a Collective Rapid Reaction Force deployed in Central Asia, and is continuing to build up its military forces, which some experts view as a step to counter-balance NATO’s further eastward expansion and to keep the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries under Russia’s military protection.