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RUSSIA is today conducting major aerial exercises including missile launches and bombings involving 50 warplanes over the Black Sea as it flexes its military muscle.
The US has warned commercial pilots against overflying the potential war zone around eastern Ukraine, according to a report, amid fears they could be shot down like flight MH17.
During the last “hot” conflict in the region, a Malaysia Alrlines Boeing 777 – flight MH17 – was shot out of the sky by pro-Moscow rebels, killing 298 people, in July 2014.
The provocative show of force comes as new videos indicate Russia continues to mass its military might close to the Ukrainian frontier.
One video showed a detachment of warships moved by the Russian navy from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, the first such switch since Soviet times, according to reports.
Another highlights armaments and troops being moved by road and rail in Krasnodar, Rostov and Bryansk regions.
Some 50 Russian fighters, bombers and attack aircraft were due to be involved in “exercises over the Black Sea”, reported Interfax, in a move only likely to exacerbate tensions.
Taking part are Su-27SM and Su-30SM fighters, Su-24M and Su-34 bombers and Su-25SM3 attack aircraft, reported Interfax.
“During the exercises, the planes will perform missile launches and bombardment of naval targets,” said the report.
Crews from the Russian air force and the Black Sea Fleet would “perform tasks to accompany ship strike groups and actions as part of reconnaissance strike complexes while ensuring security in the Black Sea.”
Su-25SM3 attack aircraft from the Stavropol Territory were relocated to airfields in Crimea, annexed by Russian from Ukraine seven years ago, said Interfax
“The Su-25SM3 squadron from the Crimea has been relocated to the Ashuluk test site in the Astrakhan region.”
Naval aircraft and helicopters and the Black Sea Fleet are also involved.
The detachment includes the Admiral Makarov frigate equipped with Caliber cruise missiles, the Grayvoron and Vyshny Volochek small missile ships, as well as large landing ships, the Samum hovercraft and the Ivan Golubets minesweeper.
On Tuesday Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow was conducting major exercises in response to threats from NATO.
The exercises come despite the US abandoning plans to deploy two missile destroyers to the Black Sea.
In a separate report, Russian state-owned TASS news agency reported that the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) had recommended American pilots to show extreme caution when flying above certain regions of Russia and Ukraine.
The FAA had issued two notices to airmen (NOTAM), said the report.