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Russia clears air on Pak drill

Russia tonight denied reports that its troops would hold joint military exercises with Pakistani forces in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and said the anti-terror drills would take place in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.

  • Published 24.09.16
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New Delhi/Islamabad, Sept. 23 (PTI): Russia tonight denied reports that its troops would hold joint military exercises with Pakistani forces in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and said the anti-terror drills would take place in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.

Russian troops arrived in Islamabad today for their first-ever joint exercises with Pakistani forces, starting tomorrow and named "Friendship 2016", which reflects the growing military ties between the two countries.

"Contrary to some reports appearing in a section of the press, the Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called 'Azad Kashmir' or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan," a statement from the Russian embassy in New Delhi said.

"The only venue of the exercise is Cherat," the statement added, referring to a place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Cherat is 34 miles (about 55km) southeast of Peshawar.

"All reports alleging the drills taking place at the High Altitude Military School in Rattu are erroneous and mischievous," the Russian embassy said.

Media reports from Islamabad had said the exercises would take place at the military school in Rattu, which is in Gilgit-Baltistan.

About 200 troops from the two countries will take part in the two-week military drills, dubbed a sign of the growing military ties between two countries from opposite sides of the erstwhile Cold War.

"A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived in Pakistan for first ever Pak-Russian joint exercise from September 24 to October 10," Indian army spokesman Lt Gen. Asim Bajwa tweeted, posting photographs of the Russian and Pakistani troops.

A statement from Russia's southern military command said the drills would involve over 70 of its servicemen, including the mountain mobile brigade personnel deployed in the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic (North Caucasus) and officers from headquarters.

The southern military command's mechanised infantry servicemen are fully equipped with their mountain gear, ammunition and standard weapons, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing the statement.

"The joint military drills are aimed at bolstering and building up military cooperation between the two countries," the agency added.