On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin ordered Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to begin large-scale exercises in the Black Sea area. During three days the Russian military will conduct several dozen manoeuvres, including many-kilometre battle marches, as well as life firing battle drills at the Rayevsky, Temryuk and Opuk ranges. Despite the fact that Moscow is not under the obligation to notify foreign partners of them the sudden Russian exercises have evoked a negative reaction. Sources of the Kommersant daily in NATO said: “Partners do not do such things.” And Ukrainian parliamentarians even decided to check how the Russian Black Sea Fleet complies with the “framework agreements.”
According to a source of the Kommersant newspaper in the RF General Staff, the principal decision to conduct the exercise was taken last weekend. “But its final timeframe, date and place were chosen personally by the president.”
RF president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Russia did not notify its foreign partners of the beginning war games, because their land part will involve exactly 7 thousand personnel. The newspaper recalls that in accordance with the Vienna Document of 2011 on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures, the OSCE Member States shall at least 42 days in advance inform the foreign partners about ground exercises, if they involve more than 9 thousand personnel, 250 battle tanks, 550 armoured combat vehicle or 250 self-propelled and towed artillery pieces, mortars and multiple rocket launchers (100-mm calibre and larger). And as for naval exercises, Senior Vice President of PIR Centre Yevgeny Buzhinsky told the Kommersant daily, “they are even not covered at all by any agreements on confidence-building measures.” According to the expert, Russia has repeatedly proposed to the Western partners to include such exercises in the category of mandatory notification, but the United States and other Western countries were against this referring to the “inviolability of the principle of freedom of navigation.”
Despite this, the news of the unscheduled large-scale military exercises near the Black Sea was taken abroad with bewilderment. A senior diplomatic source in a NATO member state told the Kommersant daily that “although from a formal point of view Russia is probably right, but all the same partners should not act like this.” “NATO member states always try in advance to inform Moscow about upcoming manoeuvres, once we have agreed to strengthen mutual trust and transparency,” insists a diplomatic source of the newspaper in one of the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance.
“The Russian Federation acts entirely within the international law norms. And in this case it is the absolutely sovereign right of any country - to conduct such military exercises in a scheduled or unscheduled mode,” the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper quoted Dmitry Peskov as saying.