Sergeyev Hails CIS Exercises

ASHULUK–Russia–Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev highly praised the results of anti-aircraft defense systems exercises of CIS countries conducted within the framework of the "Combat Concord-99" in the Astrakhan Region of Russia.

"All estimates are positive–targets were successfully hit" by combat crews of anti-aircraft defense systems from Russia–Belarus–Armenia–Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan–Sergeyev stressed–announcing that the exercises involved about 2,500 servicemen–20 anti-aircraft battalions and gun batteries–and aircraft.

The head of the Russian Defense Ministry emphasized that participants in the exercises trained elemen’s of operation of anti-aircraft defense means taking into account the latest combat actions in Yugoslavia.

Sergeyev added that during the exercises troops had completed about 50 combat assignmen’s related to the fight against aerial and ground targets–including winged missiles.

Simultaneously–taking into consideration the experience in Yugoslavia–missile systems carried out maneuvers in the vicinity to mislead enemy targets.

During the exercises–Russia also unveiled its new S- 300PM–aircraft Su-24–Su-25 and Su-27–missile systems.

Troops from Kazakhstan utilized the S-300PS system–while Armenian units demonstrated the S-75 anti-aircraft guided missile.

All defense ministers of the countries participating in the exercises were satisfied with the outcome.

The defense ministers of Azerbaijan and Ukraine attended the exercises as observers.

Taking advantage of the gathering–CIS defense ministers met Friday in Astrakhan–southern Russia–to discuss ways to improve the operation of the joint air defense system.

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov–chief of the international military cooperation department at the Russian Defense Ministry–said the CIS countries have been increasing personnel and materials involved in the joint system.

The ministers will discuss the system’s funding–the Interfax news agency quoted Ivashov as saying.

"The principle remains the same – Russia covers 50 percent of the spending and other members pick up the rest," he said.

"Officially–the joint air defense system includes 10 CIS countries: Armenia–Belarus–Georgia–Kazakhstan–Kyrgyzstan–Russia–Tajikistan–Turkmen’stan–Ukraine and Uzbekistan," he said. In practice–however–only six are involved: Armenia–Belarus–Kyrgyzstan–Kazakhstan–Russia and Tajikistan–Ivashov said.

Ivashov said the ministers also planned to discuss a new candidate for the post of chief of staff for coordinating CIS defense cooperation–who will be approved at the next CIS summit.

The meeting–chaired by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev–is being attended by delegations from Azerbaijan–Armenia–Belarus–Kyrgyzstan–Georgia–Kazakhstan–Russia–Tajikistan and Ukraine.

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