40 million Russians take part in training to survive man-made or natural disaster

By Victoria Craw of news.com.au

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo / AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo / AP

More than 40 million Russians are taking part in a three-day emergency drill to prepare the huge nation in the case of a man-made or natural disaster.

The massive operation is being run by the country's Emergency Ministry and involves more than 200,000 specialist rescue units and 50,000 pieces of equipment throughout the country.

Civil defence bodies will practice moving people and cultural valuables to safe areas, checking equipment and evacuation plans before meeting to ensure vital economic services are kept operating in the case of a chemical or biological attack or natural disaster.

Images on the Emergency Ministry website show people with convoys of trucks or engaged in operational drills.

Emergency minister Vladimir Puchkov said the exercise was designed to show regions around the country have the resources to respond swiftly to a disaster.

"The Emergency Ministry, federal executive authorities and regions have material and other resources to ensure uninterrupted operation of transport, power supply and communication systems," he said.

It comes amid a sharp deterioration in Russia's relationship with the US and Europe following clashes over Syria and Ukraine.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled out of a key agreement with the US on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium.

The pact, signed in 2000 between Putin and then US leader Bill Clinton, is meant to help both powers dispose of plutonium and serve as a step on the road towards ridding the countries of their vast nuclear arsenals.

The decision to pull out is the clearest sign yet that things have reached their lowest point since the Cold War.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the withdrawal was "necessary" following US sanctions over Ukraine and the bolstering of NATO forces on the border with Russia.

"The decision that has been taken by us is a signal to Washington," he said.

"It will not work out if they try to talk to Russia from a position of strength with the language of sanctions and ultimatums, but still want to maintain selective co-operation when it benefits the US."

The US said the decision to withdraw is "disappointing" and has accused the country of nuclear "sabre rattling" in the past.

Last week, Russia also found itself at odds with members of the Joint Investigation Team into the shooting down of MH17 who presented evidence to show the Buk missile had come from Russia and was returned to Russia after the crash.

- news.com.au

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