Russia holds air combat manoeuvres in North Caucasus MOSCOW | Monday,Jul,18,2011 IST Russia began large-scale air force training manoeuvres in the North Caucasus today in a step towards boosting security against an Islamic insurgency raging in the region, a newspaper reported. The exercise is the largest of its kind in the predominantly Muslim region of Kabardino-Balkaria in 15 years and will involve fighter jets and combat helicopters, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily quoted air force spokesman Vladimir Drik as saying. The manoeuvres are aimed at strengthening military capabilities in a region where Moscow has promised to beef up security to protect the 2014 Winter Olympics from threatened Islamist rebel attacks. The war games will continue until August 10, said Drik. ''Tactics and methods of deploying air forces for combat in the mountains, including army aviation... will be worked out here,'' a military source who declined to be named was quoted by the paper as saying. An air force spokesman reached by Reuters declined comment on the report. A decade after federal forces toppled a separatist government in Chechnya in the second of two wars since 1994, Moscow is struggling to contain an insurgency aimed at carving out an independent Islamic state in the North Caucasus. Moscow aims to undercut support for the insurgency by increasing tourism in the mountainous region, where it is trying to draw investment for a 15 billion dollar cluster of ski resorts. Russia is also due to host the Winter Olympics in the nearby region of Krasnodar in three years' time. Insurgent violence has surged in recent months in Kabardino-Balkaria, where militants gunned down three Moscow tourists en route to ski at Mount Elbrus, a popular local resort and the tallest peak in Europe.
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