A scenario to deal with a military seizure of the Iturup and Kunashir Islands (part of the Kuril chain) will be practiced next summer as part of large-scale military exercises in the Far East. According to the Sakhalin regional administration, this was announced to members of the regional assembly yesterday by Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov.
Farkhutdinov said that the decision to hold the military exercises in the Far East in August 2003 was taken during Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov's visit to the region at the beginning of November. The exercises will involve the Pacific Fleet and all the region's armed forces, and will be commanded by the Defence Minister. A large number of civilian experts will also take part in the exercises, which will take place in three seas: the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea, and the Sea of Okhotsk. The purpose of the exercises is to counter genuine threats which Russia faces in the Far East: the theft of bio-resources, illegal immigration, and drugs trafficking. The Pacific Fleet will also be used to protect hydrocarbon reserves in the area.
Russian President Vladimir Putin got the West worried again by signing Decree No. 915. The news did not produce any public effect in Russia