World

Is Putin Sending A Message With Military Drill?

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an surprise military drill to test the Russian armed forces' combat readiness.

Is Putin Sending A Message With Military Drill?
Wikimedia Commons / Politsurfer

​President Vladimir Putin isn't saying why he ordered an urgent military drill to test Russia's combat readiness, but it would seem to have something to do with the fact that Ukraine just kicked out its pro-Russian president.

Or at least that's the immediate connection you'd make given the story's coverage in the U.S. (Via Fox News

Putin ordering the drills was the top story Monday on the home pages of major American newspapers. (Via The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times)

​Interestingly, most of Russia's major newspapers that morning weren't covering it. (Via RIA Novosti, The Moscow Times, Pravda

Except for state-owned TV station RT, which in its report quoted Russia's defense minister saying, "The drills are not connected with events in Ukraine at all."

​To be clear, Putin has ordered several such surprise drills near Ukraine's border since he became president in 2012. So while a drill like this isn't unusual, as Al Jazeera's Rory Challands notes, the timing is noteworthy. 

CHALLANDS: "Reminding its neighbors and rivals of Russian military might at a time when Russian influence in the region has just taken a big dent is not such a bad thing."  

When Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev last week, it was rumored he went into hiding in the eastern part of the Ukraine, possibly in Crimea. (Via RT

Take a look around the region and you'll see Russian flags flying proudly. Almost 60 percent of the citizens there consider themselves ethnically Russian and speak the language. (Via CNN)    

Protesters in Crimea are calling for secession from Ukraine and urging Russia to intervene. (Via Euronews

While Russia has condemned Ukraine's new interim government, its leaders say they have no plans to get involved.

Still, Moscow is certainly paying close attention to the development in the region, as it's home to one of the country's key naval bases. (Via Channel 4

Putin himself hasn't publicly commented on the situation in Ukraine since before Yanukovych was ousted. But NBC's Jim Maceda writes, Putin's actions speak louder than his words. 

"Putin's message seems to be that Russia doesn't need to cross the Ukraine border to influence events there."

Monday, Russia's defense minister did say the army had taken "unspecified measures" to secure its naval fleet in Crimea.