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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: March 16, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
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Earlier we reported that, according to Kremlin-operated news agencies, Putin himself has ordered the Northern Fleet and paratroopers of the Western Military Region on high alert for an unannounced inspection. The drill will include 38,000 soldiers, 3,360 armored vehicles, 41 ships, 15 boats, and 110 planes and helicopters.

RFE/RL adds a quote from Russia's Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu:

State-run RIA news agency quoted Sergei Shoigu as saying on March 16 that Russia faced new threats to its security which forced it to boost its military strength and capabilities.

...

"New challenges and threats to military security require the armed forces to further boost their capabilities. Special attention must be paid to strategic formations in the north," RIA quoted Shoigu as saying.

A few weeks ago we'd note that this fits a spate of recent actions from the Russian military, which has held a series of unannounced drills, some of which have even included its nuclear arsenal. Russia has been keen to show off its strength, and perhaps demonstrate that its military is not stretched thin. There are other possible analyses as well: that perhaps, with fighting lessened in Ukraine, Moscow wants to find other ways to flex its muscles.

But there is also an added context at the moment -- that today it Putin's first appearance in ten days, and he did not look good. There have been plenty of rumors about Putin's absence, ranging from the ridiculous to the intriguing.  Some of the theories have even suggested that Shoigu himself may have been involved in a "quiet palace coup," either as one of the instigators or as a defender of the President. These theories, of course, are all speculative, but with "All the Strange Things Going on in Moscow" -- among them the assassination of a leading opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, the interesting travel itinerary of Defence Minister Shoigu, and the disappearance of the President -- Kremlinologists are grasping at every piece of data for a possible clue into what may be happening behind closed doors.

-- James Miller