The city that became a battlefield: Shoppers in Latvia look on in fear as soldiers storm streets and fire blanks at each other in Russian invasion exercise
- Surprise urban military drills in Riga have both angered and amused residents
- The city was turned into a simulated warzone at the weekend
- Civilians who appeared to have been given no warning of the drills
- The defence ministry apologised for the drills which injured two servicemen
- It comes as Russia stages huge war games and raining exercises with Belarus
Surprise urban military drills in Riga have both angered and amused residents as soldiers fired blank rounds and staged training drills in the in the streets of the Latvian capital.
The city was turned into a simulated warzone at the weekend, with heavily armed soldiers firing weapons among startled civilians who appeared to have been given no warning of the drills.
Footage of the exercise did not show any markings or boundaries as civilians picked their way through groups of soldiers shooting rounds at one another, staging combat drills and carrying out building breaches as part of war games being conducted by NATO countries.
Though some civilians seemed to be amused and entertained by the drills, the Latvian government has faced criticism after residents said their children were terrified.
It comes as Russia stages huge war games and military raining exercises with Belarus, Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia in nine different locations.
Though many civilians seemed to be amused and entertained by the drills, the Latvian government has faced criticism after residents said their children were terrified
Following the outcry, the military gave a lacklustre apology, stating that it uses only blank cartridges for such events, and insisting that no harm was caused
Videos that surfaced on social media showed a soldier firing his weapon as a woman with her baby passed by, scaring the woman and causing the baby to cry with fear and shock
Videos that surfaced on social media showed a soldier firing his weapon as a woman with her baby passed by, scaring the woman and causing the baby to cry with fear and shock.
Other scenes showed multiple soldiers in the middle of a street, crouching behind cars and firing their weapons at a building.
While the exercise was not carried out with full force, the sight of military units firing weapons in the city’s streets unsettled many residents and drew harsh criticism due to the absence of any official warnings or limitations to the drills.
Following the outcry, the military gave a lacklustre apology, stating that it uses only blank cartridges for such events, and insisting that no harm was caused.
‘During such drills, we only use blank cartridges, which make noise but do not pose any danger to the health and life of others.
‘In this case, blank cartridges were also used, and this situation was a bitter misunderstanding, for which we apologize.’
Meanwhile, Latvia’s Defence Ministry appealed to the public for ‘calm and understanding for the exercises’ which it said were necessary and did not pose a threat to the city’s residents, in a statement cited by the TVnet website.
The Defence Ministry added that two servicemen had been hospitalised as a result of injuries sustained in the training drills, which formed part of NATO’s Namejs 2021 war games from August 30 to October 3.
The exercises involve approximately 9,300 soldiers from several NATO countries.
Latvia’s urban defence drills came just one day before Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw huge military exercises in Kaliningrad on Monday, including a beach invasion by the world’s largest hovercraft.
Some 2,000 servicemen and more than 200 pieces of military equipment featured in the drill, as troops stormed ashore in a war game on the Russian border with the European Union.
Last week, Putin attended more large-scale military exercises which are being jointly held with Belarus, Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia at nine different ranges in Russia, including in the Baltic Sea, and five in Belarus in what has alerted the Ukrainian government. In Kaliningrad, footage showed the huge landing exercise involving the Baltic fleets and others on the Zubr-class LCAC, the world’s largest hovercraft.
Intended to sealift assault units from vessels to shores, the Soviet-designed hovercraft can also transport and plant naval mines.
Russia, Belarus and others are staging huge military exercises, which included a beach invasion by the world’s largest hovercraft (pictured)
In another video, Russian helicopter gunships were seen in action in the Zapad-2021 large-scale drills evolving 200,000 troops intended to highlight Russia’s military readiness to the West – and neighbouring Ukraine
Tanks fire during the Zapad-2021 joint military drills at the Mulino army base in the Nizhny Novogorod region, some 350 kilometres east of Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) was today overseeing huge military exercises at the Mulino range in the Nizhny Novgorod region
The drills are due to end on 16 September but Russia has announced that its forces will not all return to their military bases until mid-October, the defence ministry said, without providing an explanation for the delayed return.
The massive drills plus an announcement of closer ties between Russia and dictatorship Belarus have spooked Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned: ‘The scenarios practiced there represent serious risks [to Ukraine].
‘We understand that if Russia absorbs Belarus in one way or another, we will have 1,000 kilometres of additional danger to our sovereignty and territorial integrity.’
His predecessor Pavlo Klimkin warned that Russia was seeking to almost encircle Ukraine with forces, and called for a plea for help from NATO.
The exercises are on-going across a swathe of Russia from the Baltic to the borders of Ukraine, while separate drills are underway in the Arctic.
In exercises in the Arctic, Russian nuclear-powered submarine Oryol was shown firing a Granit anti-ship cruise missile in the Barents Sea, where waters were closed to non-naval vessels during the high-latitude war games.
Nine ranges in Russia, including in the Baltic Sea, and five in Belarus are hosting the joint military exercises which are worrying Ukraine
Tanks and helicopters are seen during drills at the Mulino army base in the Nizhny Novogorod region on Monday
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