Central Russia Goes on Combat Alert

Story by the Associated Press; curated by Zach Noble

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday ordered military forces in central Russia on combat alert as well as a drill of airborne troops, a day after Ukraine ordered a cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels.

Pro-Russian militants take the military oath of allegiance to the so-called People’s Republik of Donetsk during the ceremony in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on June 21, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops in central Russia on ‘full combat alert,’ the defence minister said on Saturday, a day after the Kremlin confirmed it was beefing up its military presence at the border with Ukraine. Alexander Khudoteply/AFP/Getty Images

NATO said earlier this week that Russia has resumed a military build-up on the border with Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government forces for weeks in a conflict that has left about 300 people dead and displaced over 34,000.

New army recruits stand in front of a flag of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ during an oath taking ceremony on Lenin Square in Donetsk, June 21, 2014. Some 40 recruits were sworn-in by leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Donetsk and the neighbouring heavily Russified region of Lugansk declared independence in disputed May 11 referendums, the legitimacy of which was rejected by Kiev and the West. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered his forces to cease fire Friday and halt military operations for a week, the first step in a peace plan he hopes will end the fighting that has killed hundreds. The Kremlin dismissed the plan, saying it sounded like an ultimatum and lacked any firm offer to open talks with insurgents.

The combat alert in the central military district, which encompasses the Volga region and the Ural mountains but not western Russia, will last until next Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, quoted by Russian state news agencies.

Some 65,000 troops will take part in military drills accompanying the combat alert, according to head of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, including several thousand troops of an airborne division which will be moved from a city 200 east of Moscow where they are stationed to the Ural mountains.