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The Russian military began on Tuesday what it described as a “sudden inspection” of its troops stationed in Armenia through exercises that are aimed at evaluating their combat readiness.

Russia’s Southern Military District (SMD) said an ad hoc commission headed by its deputy commander, Lieutenant-General Igor Turchenyuk, will inspect ground troops in Gyumri and warplanes and combat helicopters in Yerevan making up the Russian military base in the country.

A statement released by the SMD said those units will be put on high alert and told to conduct unplanned exercises at two shooting ranges in central Armenia.

“The work of the commission will allow the SMD to objectively evaluate the state of combat readiness of the inspected troops and give the commanders and entire personnel of the Russian military base in Armenia more practical experience in accomplishing tasks set for them,” added the statement.

The Russian troops already held “command and staff exercises” at the two locations in April. Their aviation unit numbering more than three dozen MiG-29 fighter jets and Mi-24 combat helicopters also took part in those drills.

Russia deployed the helicopters at Yerevan’s Erebuni military airfield last year as part of a broader reinforcement of its military presence in Armenia. It also modernized the MiG-29 jets stationed there.

The Russian military presence has long been a major element of the South Caucasus country’s defense doctrine. Armenian leaders say it is primarily needed for precluding Turkey’s direct military intervention on Azerbaijan’s side in case of another war for Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian and Armenian soldiers practiced a joint operation against an imaginary enemy codenamed “Ottomania” when they last held joint drills in September 2014.

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