A training cruise of vessels of the Caspian flotilla will take place from 1 till 15 August in the northern defined water areas of the Caspian sea as well as in the territory of the Astrakhan region and Dagestan (Trans-Caspian Russian regions). Units and elements of the North-Caucasian military district, militia and interior troops of the Ministry of Interior and units of the Federal Railway Troops Service and Federal Frontier Service will also participate in these wide-scale exercises.
The exercises scenario at the moment is kept secret. Nevertheless it became known to RIA Novosti that 57 combat and supply ships will take part in them, including amphibious hoverships and unique Orlyonok class ram-wing craft which are stationed not far from the Dagestan city of Kaspiisk, as well as 10,000 servicemen out of which 4,000 seamen of the Caspian flotilla, aviation and air defense missile forces, a flight of interceptor aircraft provided by Kazakhstan, a member of the Collective Security Treaty, and one combat vessel to represent Azerbaijan.
Moscow declined the request of Teheran to dispatch its four combat vessels to participate in the training cruise on internal Russian rivers as, according to the agreement between the USSR and Iran of 1924, there could not be any other, but Soviet, combat ship in the Caspian sea. The USSR is gone long ago but the rule is still in force. That is why Iran, like Turkmenia, will be represented at the exercises only by observers.
The training cruise will be carried out in two stages. During the first stage (from 1-7 August) command and staff training sessions will take place in the course of which using maps, computers, means of communications and control they will master procedures of cooperation between command bodies of the flotilla and units and elements assigned to it as well as means of radioelectronic struggle and also will carry out all necessary measures to strengthen protection and defense of the most important strategic and economic facilities of the country under conditions of the threat of attack against them by certain terrorist groups.
And starting from 8 August combat ships will go out to sea under the cover of attack and bombardment aviation to protect transport ships, to escort them through zones where sea pirates operate. Marines will land on the coast occupied by criminals. Mixed intelligence and search groups made up of coastal troops of the flotilla, interior troops, militia and frontier guards will search for terrorist bases, their caches with weapons and narcotics, will surround certain islands and carry out operations to neutralize bandits and poachers there, will liberate an oil platform from occupants, will prevent an explosion of a railway bridge across Volga...
The exercises also stipulate resolution of other goals, in particular, search for and provision of assistance to people in distress at sea, liquidation of an oil spill, protection of biological resources, detention of vessels intruding into territorial waters and many others.
According to the official version, the objective of the training cruise of Caspian flotilla vessels is to develop procedures to block channels which international terrorists, drug dealers and other destructive forces might use to destabilize political, economic and military situation in the south of Russia, to ensure peaceful navigation and civilized fishing in the basin of the world largest salt lake.
One detail also draws attention to itself: President Vladimir Putin stated the necessity to carry out these exercises in the spring this year in the wake of the summit meeting of heads of Trans-Caspian states which took place in Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenia. There the five leaders despite the Kremlin's hopes failed to agree the principles of division of the Caspian sea. At the moment only Kazakhstan and with minor reservations Azerbaijan supported the position of Moscow. Probably that was why the idea occurred to demonstrate in this region not only political and economic weight of Russia but its military might as well.
One thing is certain, Moscow is strengthening its positions in the Caspian sea. And it uses not only political, economic and diplomatic methods.